U.S.-Mexico Colorado River collaboration leads to 20% increase in bird abundance.
Collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico—supported by a coalition of nonprofits including Audubon—which resulted in a pulse flow through the Colorado River Delta, lead to a 20% increase in bird abundance and a 42% increase in bird diversity. A new study from the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), which also showed an increase in greenness along the river corridor, demonstrates the importance of binational cooperation between the two countries for environmental causes. In 2012, the United States and Mexico adopted Minute 319, an innovative agreement to change how Colorado River water is managed at the border.
“The findings of the study prove that this binational cooperation was good for birds and the health of the Delta. Water temporarily reached all the way to the sea and along the way, it made the formerly dry river corridor into viable habitat,” said Jennifer Pitt, Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director. “The restoration work of our partners in Mexico resulted in nearly 300,000 newly planted native trees—creating a haven for birds and possibly future recreation sites for local communities. We’re thankful to the IBWC and the Raise the River coalition for this remarkable success.”
Raise the River is a unique partnership of six U.S. and Mexican NGOs committed to restoring the Colorado River Delta. In addition to Audubon, members include: The Nature Conservancy, Pronatura Noroeste, the Redford Center, Restauremos El Colorado, and the Sonoran Institute. The coalition has worked with policymakers, water agencies and governmental representatives from the U.S. and Mexico since 2012 to cooperatively create historic change for the Colorado River Delta.
Through the 5-year term of Minute 319, more than 150,000 acre-feet of water was sent into the Delta. Some of that water went directly to restoration sites to ensure the staying power of newly planted native trees. Most of the water was delivered as a “pulse flow,” engineered to mimic the natural cycle of spring snowmelt that created vast riparian forests and wetlands in the pre-development Delta ecosystem.
Now, one year after the end of Minute 319 (and the extension of its measures under a new agreement known as Minute 323), the U.S. and Mexican sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission published conclusions of a binational science team that monitored impacts, comprised of federal, university, and NGO researchers. Audubon helped lead these efforts with binational conservation partners. The science gives us lessons learned that can be applied as water is delivered and new habitat is created under Minute 323.
Included in Minute 323 were provisions to share Colorado River water surpluses and shortages, and to incentivize water conservation (especially keeping more water in Lake Mead). These measures look more important than ever as we approach the first-ever declared shortages on the Lower Colorado.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more and how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
The Western Water Initiative is Audubon’s multi-state effort to protect the Colorado River and the West’s network of Saline Lakes. Some 65,000 members strong and growing, the network advocates for science-based, non-partisan water policies and management that benefit rivers and lakes for the birds, wildlife, habitats, cities, and economies they support. To learn more, visit: www.audubon.org/westernwater.
Originally published in the National Audubon Society Western Water News: