2018 CSDMS meeting-011
Impact of spring-associated riparian vegetation on channel morphology in ephemeral dryland channels: Henry Mountains, Utah, USA
Climate change and reduced water availability in arid regions has important implications for how channels will change as they adjust to a new steady-state characterized by different riparian populations. While much study has been devoted to the effects riparian vegetation has on fluvial processes (Tal & Paola, 2010; Osterkamp & Hupp, 2010; Corenblit et al., 2009), the complexity of natural channels obscures exactly how these feedbacks modify long-term channel evolution, making prediction of the larger impacts of vegetation change on channel morphology difficult. In order to isolate the impact vegetation has on morphology, single channels that are variably vegetated along their length are desirable for study because flow conditions and long-term sediment flux change minimally between major tributaries (Bertoldi et al., 2011). Comparisons made in such dryland channels in Henry Mountains, Utah, USA, where groundwater springs juxtapose vegetated and un-vegetated reaches allow us to examine two hypotheses: first, that disruptions to normal fluvial processes caused by in-channel vegetation produce distinct morphological responses to floods at the scale of single flood events, and, second, that these responses accumulate on the timescale of multiple floods to produce channel morphologies in vegetated reaches that are fundamentally different from those in unvegetated reaches. Analysis of repeat airborne LiDAR data for these areas provides an opportunity to quantify morphological parameters and elevation differences, and to attempt to correlate these metrics with quantitative metrics of vegetation. Field observations from October, 2017 in this region agree with the results of LiDAR analyses and indicate that the presence of dense vegetation seems to produce more uniform cross-sectional shape with narrow, deeply incised channels supported by intense rooting on banks, and a longitudinal profile that is characterized by frequent vegetation-supported, non-bedrock knickpoints. Future work will involve modelling flood flows to determine the degree and areal extent of channel reworking during a flooding event and the influence of vegetation on shear stress for comparison with LiDAR differencing results.