Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Woody vegetation and channel morphogenesis in low-gradient, gravel-bed streams in the Ozarks Plateaus, Missouri and Arkansas

January 1, 1995

Woody vegetation affects channel morphogenesis in Ozark streams of Missouri and Arkansas by increasing local roughness, increasing bank strength, providing sedimentation sites, and creating obstructions to flow. Variations in physiographic controls on channel morphology result in systematic changes in vegetation patterns and geomorphic functions with increasing drainage basin area. In upstream reaches, streams have abundant bedrock control and bank heights that typically are less than or equal to the rooting depth of trees. In downstream reaches where valleys are wider and alluvial banks are higher vegetation has different geomorphic functions. At drainage areas of greater than 100–200 kM2, Ozarks streams are characterized by longitudinally juxtaposed reaches of high and low lateral channel migration rates, referred to as disturbance reaches and stable reaches, respectively. Whereas stable reaches can develop stable forested floodplains (if they are not farmed), disturbance reaches are characterized by dynamic vegetation communities that interact with erosion and deposition processes.

Disturbance reaches can be subdivided into low-gradient and high-gradient longitudinal zones. Low-energy zones are characterized by incremental, unidirectional lateral channel migration and deposition of gravel and sand bars. The bars are characterized by prominent bands of woody vegetation and ridge and swale topography. Channel monitoring data indicate that densely vegetated bands of woody vegetation formed depositional sites during bedload-transporting events. The same floods caused up to 20 m of erosion of adjacent cutbanks, scoured non-vegetated areas between vegetation bands, and increased thalweg depth and definition. In high-energy (or riffle) zones, channel movement is dominantly by avulsion. In these zones, vegetation creates areas of erosional resistance that become temporary islands as the channel avulses around or through them. Woody vegetation on islands creates steep, root-defended banks that contribute to narrow channels with high velocities.

Calculation of hydraulic roughness from density and average diameter of woody vegetation groups of different ages indicates that flow resistance provided by vegetation decreases systematically with group age, mainly through decreasing stem density. If all other factors remain constant, the stabilizing effect of a group of woody vegetation on a gravel bar decreases with vegetation age.

    Publication Year 1995
    Title Woody vegetation and channel morphogenesis in low-gradient, gravel-bed streams in the Ozarks Plateaus, Missouri and Arkansas
    DOI 10.1016/0169-555X(95)00034-3
    Authors R. McKenney, R. B. Jacobson, R.C. Wertheimer
    Publication Type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Series Title Geomorphology
    Index ID 1001112
    Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
    USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center