Predicting River Floodplain and Lateral Channel Migration for Salmon Habitat Conservation1


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    Paper No. J05061 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).


Abstract:  In this article, we describe a method for predicting floodplain locations and potential lateral channel migration across 82,900 km (491 km2 by bankfull area) of streams in the Columbia River basin. Predictions are based on channel confinement, channel slope, bankfull width, and bankfull depth derived from digital elevation and precipitation data. Half of the 367 km2 (47,900 km by length) of low-gradient channels (≤ 4% channel slope) were classified as floodplain channels with a high likelihood of lateral channel migration (182 km2, 50%). Classification agreement between modeled and field-measured floodplain confinement was 85% (κ = 0.46, p < 0.001) with the largest source of error being the misclassification of unconfined channels as confined (55% omission error). Classification agreement between predicted channel migration and lateral migration determined from aerial photographs was 76% (κ = 0.53, p < 0.001) with the largest source of error being the misclassification of laterally migrating channels as non-migrating (35% omission error). On average, more salmon populations were associated with laterally migrating channels and floodplains than with confined or nonmigrating channels. These data are useful for many river basin planning applications, including identification of land use impacts to floodplain habitats and locations with restoration potential for listed salmonids or other species of concern.