In Mediterranean and arid climates, seasonal ponds play important roles for native species, whose life cycles coincide with pond inundation duration and timing, or “hydroperiod.” In California, anthropogenically-formed cattle ponds are valuable aquatic habitat for listed amphibians such as frogs, salamanders, and turtles, but with anticipated changes in climate, these features may be affected by changing air temperature or precipitation patterns.

To effectively manage these features and prioritize restoration and habitat conservation efforts, we developed a flexible, robust, and cost-effective Pond Inundation and Timing (Pond-IT) model which characterizes the importance of various hydroperiod drivers in these ponds, and addresses two main questions: 1) Can the pond sustain habitat for a target species in its existing configuration? and 2) Can proposed modifications or enhancements create additional habitat that is resilient to changing climate?

Pond IT is fundamentally a water balance-based model, which infers the monthly balance between hydrologic fluxes of runoff, evapotranspiration, and groundwater, to develop a record of pond water-surface elevation. While this technique is not novel, most water-balance models require many years of monitoring data, which is expensive to acquire, especially in remote environments. In contrast, Pond-IT leverages increasingly available aerial photographs to collect model calibration remotely, which is cost-effective and can span multiple decades. Development of the Pond IT hydroperiod model requires only one field visit to obtain a bathymetric survey; the remaining model inputs use publicly available datasets.

Pond IT was developed using Python, an open source programming language known for being readable and customizable. Balance Hydrologics, the Guadalupe-Coyote Resource Conservation District (GCRCD), and the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency (SCVHA), was recently awarded a Local Assistance Grant (LAG) to fund development of the Pond-IT model for open-source distribution. Over the next 2 years, Balance will develop and release the Pond-IT model as an Excel workbook, a Python repository, both with an in-depth guide-book. Release of the model will coincide with two training sessions and webinar.

To hear more about the model capabilities, catch Dr. Kealie Pretzlav’s talk at the SEDHYD conference in Reno on June 27th at 2:30pm, in session 9A Hydroecological Modeling II. If you are interested in hearing more about the Pond-IT model in the future,  subscribe below or email to be added to our mailing list.

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