The Madrean Archipelago, or Sky Islands is one of the most ecologically diverse and rich landscapes in North America. Due to historic overgrazing, drought, and climate change these lands face stress and degradation. The Watershed Restoration Program takes a multi-pronged approach to restoring degraded landscapes to a trajectory of recovery and climate resiliency. BRN works with nonprofits, government and state agencies, and individuals to repair and protect our landscapes.
Since inception, the Watershed Restoration Program has installed over 4,000 erosion control structures across southeastern Arizona improving hydrologic function and soil conditions to enhance wildlife habitat and recharge shallow groundwater tables.
How we do it
At the foundation of every successful restoration effort is the strengthening of the physical processes that drive ecosystem change. Using hand-built erosion control structures, our restoration crew creates masterful rock and wood structures to mitigate the erosive flow of water across degraded landscapes.
While erosion is a natural process that is essential for ecosystems to thrive, these factors can contribute to accelerated erosion and a loss of vegetation that can harm the landscape. As soil becomes unstable, and flowing water picks up speed, this can cause headcuts to form and extreme channelization that exacerbates the negative process.
EROSION CONTROL STRUCTURES
Erosion control structures serve as physical barriers to slow down water and give it time to infiltrate into the soil below. This helps retain moisture and increase vegetation in a usually denuded area. As the rate of flow decreases, sediment drops out behind structures which builds the channel back up as soil and nutrients are retained. As a result, these barriers contribute to reduced habitat loss, increased surface water availability, improved soil infiltration (potentially recharging groundwater sources over time), vegetation cover, and the accumulation of sediment and other organic materials.
READING THE LAND
1. This dead mesquite tree gives us a look into the past and
shows how much soil has been lost over time. The
"branch" is actually an exposed root.
2. The exposed taproot gives us a vertical reference of how
erosion has stripped away soil as well as nutrients.
3. This area is actively eroding, with loose soil continuing to
fall and be carried downstream.
BUILDING HEALTHY HABITATS
In collaboration with Borderlands Nursery & Seed, BRN's native plant program, we revegetate denuded landscapes with native vegetation and seed pellets to provide forage and habitat to wildlife, address nectar gaps on the landscape, stabilize soils, and promote native species richness and diversity in our landscapes. Plants help physically hold the landscape together and stabilize natural processes like the water cycle and erosion, which promotes a functional watershed.