Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Krista Ehlert

Second Advisor

Jameson Brennan


Despite making up less than two percent of the overall landscape in the arid and semi-arid western US, riparian areas are a crucial resource for agriculture, livestock, and wildlife. However, many have impaired function and reduced riparian cover. Low-Cost, Low-Tech Tools (LCLTT) are a subset of Process-Based Restoration (PBR) used for riparian restoration that were chosen for their cost-effectiveness and minimal technical requirements. LCLTT has been tested in mountainous areas of the western US but only recently implemented in the Northern Great Plains (NGP). Given their novelty as an approach toward restoration for the region, professional restoration and landowner communities are skeptical about LCLTT. The objective of this research was to address these concerns by determining the short-term impacts of LCLTT on vegetation communities and soil moisture (SM) in riparian areas located in livestock production systems. Forage production, SM, and the proportions of vegetation functional groups and ground cover were compared between stream reaches treated with LCLTT and untreated control reaches. The findings of this research show that in both the riparian corridor and historic floodplain, the LCLTT treatment reduced bare ground (-16% and -13%, P=0.04 and P=0.003, respectively) and increased upland vegetation (21% and 31%, P=0.002 and P < 0.0001, respectively), with increased surface water in the riparian corridor (13%, P=0.005) and increased graminoid vegetation (18%, P=0.0007) in the historic floodplain. Throughout the study, the upper 15cm of the soil profile had more moisture (0.08 m3/m3, P=0.04) in treatment reaches with an extended release of moisture during the summer. A seasonal analysis of SM showed no significant differences between treatment and control reaches during spring, but higher water content was observed in treatment reaches in the 0-15 cm range in summer (0.12 m3/m3, P=0.001), and both the 0-15 and 15-30 cm ranges in fall (both 0.13 m3/m3, P=0.0002). No changes to forage production were observed. Research regarding PBR from other locations showed similar changes to stream processes and plant communities in the early stages of restoration. While this research demonstrated short-term impacts in the initial year post-restoration, previous, longer-term research in other regions has observed that changes from PBR increase and compound with time. The results of this and similar research indicate that LCLTT could be a timeand cost-effective tool for landowners and managers to restore prairie streams and riparian areas in a livestock production setting in the NGP.


South Dakota State University



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In Copyright