A conceptual model for the longitudinal distribution of wood in mountain streams

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Abstract

Wood load, channel parameters and valley parameters were surveyed in 50 contiguous stream segments each 25 m in length along 12 streams in the Colorado Front Range. Length and diameter of each piece of wood were measured, and the orientation of each piece was tallied as a ramp, buried, bridge or unattached. These data were then used to evaluate longitudinal patterns of wood distribution in forested headwater streams of the Colorado Front Range, and potential channel-, valley- and watershed-scale controls on these patterns. We hypothesized that (i) wood load decreases downstream, (ii) wood is non-randomly distributed at channel lengths of tens to hundreds of meters as a result of the presence of wood jams and (iii) the proportion of wood clustered into jams increases with drainage area as a result of downstream increases in relative capacity of a stream to transport wood introduced from the adjacent riparian zone and valley bottom. Results indicate a progressive downstream decrease in wood load within channels, and correlations between wood load and drainage area, elevation, channel width, bed gradient and total stream power. Results support the first and second hypotheses, but are inconclusive with respect to the third hypothesis. Wood is non-randomly distributed at lengths of tens to hundreds of meters, but the proportion of pieces in jams reaches a maximum at intermediate downstream distances within the study area. We use these results to propose a conceptual model illustrating downstream trends in wood within streams of the Colorado Front Range. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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