Robin welling

influence of large wood on sediment storage in low-order mountain streams.

Mountain streams transport water and sediment from peaks and valleys. Scientists have found that large wood stores fluvial sediment, thereby disrupting the transport of sediment from hillslopes to the valley bottom. Most studies of wood and sediment storage have focused on streams and in coastal mountain ranges, which differ markedly in their forest composition and hillslope erosion processes from watersheds in semi-arid climates. Understanding the role that wood plays in sediment routing within channels is important because the balance of sediment supply and transport capacity controls channel morphology, which influences water storage, susceptibility to flooding, and aquatic habitat.

Robin Welling, a graduate student at the University of Montana, is investigating the relationship between large wood and sediment routing in low-order mountain streams. She will study wood-associated sediment storage in two streams in the Bitterroot Mountains in western Montana, and she will use field data to calibrate a model to represent this process over a longer time scale. Her research will provide a baseline understanding for the role of wood on sediment storage in low-order mountain streams, with an emphasis on those in semi-arid climates.