Using Remotely Sensed Imagery to Document How Land Use Drives Turbidity of Playa Waters in Texas
Starr, Scott M. (TTU)
Heintzman, Lucas J. (TTU)
Mulligan, Kevin R. (TTU)
Barbato, Lucia S. (TTU)
McIntyre, Nancy E. (TTU)
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Sedimentation (primarily from human land use) is a major threat to runoff-fed wetlands of the Great Plains of North America (playas), but it is unknown how many playas are turbid, how prevalence of turbidity has changed over time, and how turbidity is related to surrounding land use. We used remotely sensed imagery to assess sedimentation in the waters of over 7700 playa basins in Texas on four dates during a 29-year span: 25 July 1986 (a regionally wet time), 3 May 2014 (during drought), 4 June 2014 (after the drought was broken), and 25 July 2015 (one year post-drought). Even on the wettest date examined, 64% of playa basins did not hold water. Turbidity varied over time, was already present in over half of the basins examined in 1986, and prevalence of turbidity was not simply proportional to overall wet playa abundance. There was an increase in total and irrigated cropland in our focal region and a statistically significant association between sedimentation and land use within 100 m of a playa: clear playas were associated with more urban development and pasture/grassland, and turbid playas were surrounded mostly by cropland.