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NHNM Mapping and Inventory


New Mexico Riparian Habitat Map



The New Mexico Riparian Habitat Map (NMRipMap) will delineate the composition, cover, and structure of riparian and wetland vegetation at a fine scale across New Mexico, including the location and extent of non-native species such as salt cedar. The map will provide a baseline for tracking tamarisk leaf beetle impacts and their severity, indicate where restoration is needed to prevent habitat loss, and support fish and wildlife surveys and monitoring.

Riparian habitats occupy less than 1% of total land area in New Mexico, but 80% of New Mexico’s vertebrate species depend on riparian areas for food, water, cover, and/or migration routes (Gillis 1991), and up to 70% of New Mexico’s bird species depend on riparian areas during some part of their life cycles (Krueper 1993). Riparian habitats are among the most threatened because they are sensitive to disturbance and change. In fact, 90% of the historic riparian habitat in Arizona and New Mexico (NRC 2002) and 33 percent of the historic wetland habitat in New Mexico (Dahl 1990) has already been lost.

Map Details:
  • working scale of 1:6,000,
  • classifies habitats by vegetation structure and composition including non-native species such as salt cedar and Russian olive (see Annotated Legend),
  • based on the latest aerial photography and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging),
  • built using state-of-the-art image analysis coupled with extensive field-based validation (see Mapping Methods).

NMRipMap is partitioned by watershed into five areas to be mapped by the end of 2022:

  1. Upper Rio Grande Basin (north of Cochiti Reservoir) – December 2018
  2. Middle Rio Grande Basin (Cochiti to Elephant Butte reservoirs) and Estancia Basin – July 2019
  3. Canadian/Upper Pecos/San Juan Basins – July 2020
  4. Lower Pecos/Tularosa Basin/Lower Rio Grande Basins – July 2021
  5. Gila/San Francisco/Mimbres Basins – December 2021
The USFS portion includes the Carson, Santa Fe, Cibola (including National Grasslands), Lincoln, and Gila National Forests. Products by forest will also be made available by the USFS Region 3 as they are completed.
The NMDGF portion covers all other lands of the state with the exception of the “Caprock” playa region in the southeast, which has limited riparian habitat.


The NMRipMap legend has three hierarchical levels of habitat classification: 

Level I is the highest level and indicates the major lifeform structures: forest and woodlands, shrublands, and herbaceous vegetation plus a category of miscellaneous lands types such as roads, built-up areas, agriculture, etc.
Level II refines the Level I themes in terms of elevation, native versus non-native species, natural and semi-natural vegetation, and riparian versus upland vegetation.
Level III further differentiates map units based on leaf retention (deciduous versus evergreen), specific species composition, or site characteristics (wet, dry, or alkaline).

Map unit delineations are all attributed where possible with respect to the National Vegetation Classification, USFS  Ecosystem Response Units (ERUs), and various vegetation height and canopy cover classes. See the New Mexico Riparian Habitat Map Annotated Legend for full descriptions of each unit.

The New Mexico Riparian Habitat map is a collaboration between the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) and USDA Forest Service, Region 3 (USFS) in association with Natural Heritage New Mexico (NHNM) at the University of New Mexico, Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP) at the University of Missouri, and the Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC) of the USFS, Salt Lake City, UT. Forest Service mapping is  overseen by USFS Region 3 in cooperation with Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC) and will be conducted on a forest-by-forest basis. Mapping of the NMDGF portion is overseen by NHNM at UNM in cooperation with Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP). Integration and overall project coordination are by NHNM.