Water Resources Research

Wood dynamics in headwater streams of the Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Abstract

[1] An 11-year monitoring study begun in 1996 evaluates wood mobility in five Colorado Rocky Mountain streams. Each channel reach is 40–70 m in length. Initial surveys included channel dimensions and arrangement of each piece of wood. Annual resurveys focused on wood arrangement and persistence. Average diameter of 15 cm and length of 3.2 m varied little among sites. Average yearly mobility ranged from 16% to 23%. Average residence time was 3.4 years. Wood load correlates positively with valley width and channel gradient, and negatively with relative substrate submergence and mean annual peak discharge. Survival analysis revealed that individual piece residence time was controlled by a nondimensional piece length and peak unit stream power during the year of removal. Residence time increases as piece length relative to channel width decreases, which could be explained by a greater integration of the flow field for longer pieces. Mobility of individual pieces of wood is controlled primarily by piece characteristics (length, diameter, type). Likelihood of mobility is smallest for buried pieces. The brevity of residence time relative to studies from other regions likely results from relatively low wood loads in these channels after timber harvesting cleared both instream and riparian wood supply more than a century ago. Although individual pieces of wood are exchanged, wood load and the location of individual logjams remain relatively constant.

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