Ecologically Functional Floodplains: Connectivity, Flow Regime, and Scale1


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    Paper No. JAWRA-09-0040-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) Discussions are open until six months from print publication.



Opperman, Jeffrey J., Ryan Luster, Bruce A. McKenney, Michael Roberts, and Amanda Wrona Meadows, 2010. Ecologically Functional Floodplains: Connectivity, Flow Regime, and Scale. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 46(2):211-226. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2010.00426.x

Abstract:  This paper proposes a conceptual model that captures key attributes of ecologically functional floodplains, encompassing three basic elements: (1) hydrologic connectivity between the river and the floodplain, (2) a variable hydrograph that reflects seasonal precipitation patterns and retains a range of both high and low flow events, and (3) sufficient spatial scale to encompass dynamic processes and for floodplain benefits to accrue to a meaningful level. Although floodplains support high levels of biodiversity and some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth, they are also among the most converted and threatened ecosystems and therefore have recently become the focus of conservation and restoration programs across the United States and globally. These efforts seek to conserve or restore complex, highly variable ecosystems and often must simultaneously address both land and water management. Thus, such efforts must overcome considerable scientific, technical, and socioeconomic challenges. In addition to proposing a scientific conceptual model, this paper also includes three case studies that illustrate methods for addressing these technical and socioeconomic challenges within projects that seek to promote ecologically functional floodplains through river-floodplain reconnection and/or restoration of key components of hydrological variability.