Dynamics of wetland development and resource management in Las Vegas Wash, Nevada

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This paper examines the co-evolution of the Las Vegas, Nevada metropolitan area, Las Vegas Wash ecosystem-a downstream riparian wetland-and Wash management as a case of urban-environment dynamics. Since Las Vegas Wash provides the primary drainage for Las Vegas, changes in the urban system lead to changes in the Wash and its ecosystem. The population of the drainage area has grown from approximately 1,000 people in 1900 to more than 1.3 million in 2000. This phenomenal population growth led to increased Wash flow, from less than .03 m3/sec (1 ft3/sec) to over 7.4 m3/sec (260 ft3/sec), and consequent ecological changes from a nearly dry wash to a rich wetland, and now to an eroded system. As the Wash ecosystem changed, valuation of Wash characteristics by residents and resource managers also changed, shifting the focus of management and use, which ultimately led to further ecosystem changes. Reciprocal relationships among human activity, environmental change, and management in this urban area highlight the need for a comprehensive and dynamic systems perspective and adaptive approaches in urban environmental management and make this a particularly compelling case study. This paper describes a conceptual systems framework for adaptive urban-environment management derived from this case.


Adaptive management; Adaptive natural resource management; Arid wetlands; Cities and towns – Growth; Nevada – Las Vegas; Nevada –Las Vegas Wash; Southwest; New; Systems thinking; Urban growth; Urban runoff—Management; Water resources management; Wetlands


Desert Ecology | Environmental Sciences | Water Resource Management

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