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Landscape controls on the distribution and ecohydrology of central Oregon springs

January 31, 2019

Small springs in semiarid landscapes are essential for maintaining aquatic biodiversity and supporting livestock grazing operations. However, little is known about controls on the distribution and physical characteristics of small springs, the aquatic species they support, or their sensitivity to disturbance. We address this information gap in the Crooked River subbasin, a tributary of the Deschutes River in Oregon. We conducted spatial analyses on 2,519 mapped springs to investigate the influence of landscape controls (precipitation and bedrock permeability) on spring density in the Crooked River subbasin and the adjacent Upper Deschutes subbasin. Spring density was highest in areas of low bedrock permeability (P < 0.0001) and high annual precipitation (P < 0.0001). We suggest that the high density of small springs on low‐permeability bedrock indicates that these springs generally have short, shallow flow paths and thus may be susceptible to forecasted climate changes. A survey of 137 springs in the Crooked River subbasin revealed the hydrogeologic setting affects spring discharge type (P = 0.017), temperature (P = 0.011), and pH (P = 0.026). We found a high frequency of anthropogenic impacts on springs: 95% of diffuse‐discharge springs and 79% of discrete‐discharge springs were disturbed by livestock grazing. Species inventories at 10 of the most intact surveyed springs confirm that small springs are biologically diverse, with 151 total species of plants and 135 total taxa of macroinvertebrates. Springs in the Crooked River subbasin are ecologically important habitats but require careful management to protect against livestock disturbance and development.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Landscape controls on the distribution and ecohydrology of central Oregon springs
DOI 10.1002/eco.2065
Authors Zach Freed, Allison Aldous, Marshall W. Gannett
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecohydrology
Index ID 70201866
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center