Lag in Stream Channel Adjustment to Livestock Exclosure, White Mountains, California


  • G. Mathias Kondolf

    1. Department of Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A.; joint appointment with the White Mountain Research Station, Bishop, California.
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Livestock have been excluded from riparian zones along many streams in western North America in an effort to restore aquatic and riparian habitat degraded by livestock grazing. Within these exclosures, channel adjustment to elimination of grazing pressure may lag behind plant recovery because of the time required to deposit sediment along the vegetated banks of the stream channel. Moreover, unless grazing is eliminated from the watershed, the channel within the exclosure must still accommodate increased runoff and sediment loads from upstream. This hydrologic regime may prevent a return to predisturbance channel morphology. Cross sections of the North Fork Cottonwood Creek in the White Mountains of California showed no significant difference in channel width within and downstream of a 24-year-old exclosure, despite a lush growth of stream bank vegetation that gives the impression of a narrower channel within the exclosure.