Since early spring, I’ve taken my early morning bike ride through downtown Albuquerque to the old Route 66 crossing of the Rio Grande. Every time, I’ve stopped to check out this little sandbar island, anchored by a tenacious community of willows. I started watching closely after I saw a pair of geese, frantic as the water rose to cover their nest.
For much of the last three months, the exposed sand you see here was covered in water, as we’ve seen the highest flow past this bridge since 2005.
The flows here are attenuated, in part because Albuquerque’s municipal system takes water upstream of this point. But up at San Felipe, where we have a good gauge and a long record, we’re on track to record the biggest flow into this reach of the Rio Grande Valley since 1995.
Every time I’ve been down, I’ve wondered if my little island would be gone. But this fascinating partnership of sandbar island and willow off the Central Avenue Bridge persists, emerging the past few trips as flows dropped below 2,000 cubic feet per second for the first time since early April.
Scholars have helpfully defined resilience as “the ability of a system to survive a shock while retaining its basic structure and function.” One of the important issues when invoking the resilience framework is what we include within our definition of the “system” (“Resilience of what, and for whom,” as my friend and colleague Mindy Benson frequently asks.). If our definition is to include the geese, my little island has failed the resilience test. But if we’re talking about the partnership of sandbar and willow, the basic structure and function remain intact.