Impacts of Climate Change and Land Use  on the Southwestern United States

Impacts of Climate Change on the Land Surface

Erosion in the Rio Puerco: Geography and Processes

Raymond D. Watts
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado
Richard Pelltier
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado
Peter Molnar
Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colorado

"The Rio Puerco, a tributary of the Rio Grande in New Mexico, has deepened and widened its channel, or arroyo, since the settlement of the region. This process of accelerated erosion still continues. Historical evidence, largely the notes and maps of government land surveyors, [shows] that the cutting began between 1885 and 1890. The deepening of the arroyos has decreased the agricultural and grazing value of the country, resulting in the abandonment of six small towns and numerous ranches. The coincidence between the introduction of large numbers of stock and the cutting of arroyos indicates that overgrazing precipitated this form of destructive erosion. The ultimate cause ... appears to lie in cyclic fluctuations in climate." --Kirk Bryan, Journal of Geology, 1928.

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