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Quantifying geomorphic change at ephemeral stream restoration sites using a coupled-model approach

January 21, 2017

Rock-detention structures are used as restoration treatments to engineer ephemeral stream channels of southeast Arizona, USA, to reduce streamflow velocity, limit erosion, retain sediment, and promote surface-water infiltration. Structures are intended to aggrade incised stream channels, yet little quantified evidence of efficacy is available. The goal of this 3-year study was to characterize the geomorphic impacts of rock-detention structures used as a restoration strategy and develop a methodology to predict the associated changes. We studied reaches of two ephemeral streams with different watershed management histories: one where thousands of loose-rock check dams were installed 30 years prior to our study, and one with structures constructed at the beginning of our study. The methods used included runoff, sediment transport, and geomorphic modelling and repeat terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) surveys to map landscape change. Where discharge data were not available, event-based runoff was estimated using KINEROS2, a one-dimensional kinematic-wave runoff and erosion model. Discharge measurements and estimates were used as input to a two-dimensional unsteady flow-and-sedimentation model (Nays2DH) that combined a gridded flow, transport, and bed and bank simulation with geomorphic change. Through comparison of consecutive DEMs, the potential to substitute uncalibrated models to analyze stream restoration is introduced. We demonstrate a new approach to assess hydraulics and associated patterns of aggradation and degradation resulting from the construction of check-dams and other transverse structures. Notably, we find that stream restoration using rock-detention structures is effective across vastly different timescales.

Publication Year 2017
Title Quantifying geomorphic change at ephemeral stream restoration sites using a coupled-model approach
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.01.017
Authors Laura M. Norman, Joel B. Sankey, David Dean, Joshua J. Caster, Stephen B. DeLong, Whitney Henderson-DeLong, Jon D. Pelletier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geomorphology
Index ID 70182246
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center