Tag Results: ColoradoBack
Restoring Western Headwater Streams with Low-Tech Process-Based Methods: A Review of the Science and Case Study Results, Challenges and Opportunities
This report reviews published research and unpublished case study information on the effects ofrestoring incised and degraded headwater streams in western states with low-tech processbased restoration methods (LTPBR). LTPBR is a subset of process-based restoration (PBR) that seeks to re-establish natural stream processes by reconnecting incised streams with their floodplains and adjacent wetlands so that more frequent inundation of the floodplain occurs. Projects involve the use of simple, temporary, hand-built wood and rock structures that mimic
natural beaver structures, acting as speed bumps that capture sediments to aggrade the stream. LTPBR approaches are substantially less expensive than form-based stream restoration approaches that employ heavy equipment.i This approach is appealing in part because low project costs enable implementation at a scale that can respond to the extent of floodplain alteration, which is estimated at 45% of headwaters streams in Colorado. ii Negative effects of disconnected floodplains include lower groundwater tables, lower summer base flows,
warmer water temperatures, and substantial loss of riparian habitat.
Hydrologic extremes dominate chemical exports from riparian zones and dictate water quality in major river systems. Yet, changes in land use and ecosystem services alongside growing climate variability are altering hydrologic extremes and their coupled impacts on riverine water quality. In the western U.S., warming temperatures and intensified aridification are increasingly paired with the expanding range of the American beaver—and their dams, which transform hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles in riparian systems. Here, we show that beaver dams overshadow climatic hydrologic extremes in their effects on water residence time and oxygen and nitrogen fluxes in the riparian subsurface. In a mountainous watershed in Colorado, U.S.A., we find that the increase in riparian hydraulic gradients imposed by a beaver dam is 10.7–13.3 times greater than seasonal hydrologic extremes. The massive hydraulic gradient increases hyporheic nitrate removal by 44.2% relative to seasonal extremes alone. A drier, hotter climate in the western U.S. will further expand the range of beavers and magnify their impacts on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry, illustrating that ecosystem feedbacks to climate change will alter water quality in river systems.