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Neighborhood matters: Patterns and controls on wood distribution in old-growth forest streams of the Colorado Front Range, USA

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.09.008
  • Instream Wood
  • Colorado Front Range
  • Old-Growth Forest
  • Spatial Distribution
  • Mathematics


Abstract We surveyed wood characteristics along four headwater channel segments of the Colorado Front Range with drainage areas of 8–82 km 2. Stream lengths surveyed range from 3025 to 8980 m and together include a total of 15,706 pieces of wood. Time since last disturbance in the form of a stand-killing fire varied from 31 to > 500 years. Individual pieces of wood were highly aggregated at length scales of 1 to 150 m. Trends among jams were more weakly developed, but jams tended to be more segregated at lengths < 10 m, slightly more aggregated at lengths ~ 100–300 m, and to have diverging patterns at lengths > 300 m, with jams along individual channels being aggregated, segregated, or random. Multiple linear regressions failed to produce highly predictive models to explain the response variables of wood load, piece dimensions, or characteristics of jams other than jam volume (which correlated with drainage area and wood load); but examination of downstream patterns suggests that local valley and channel geometry (valley-bottom width, gradient, and sequence of longitudinal channel changes) exert a stronger influence on patterns of wood distribution than either time since last forest disturbance or progressive downstream trends associated with increasing drainage area. The longitudinal sequences of wood recruitment sources, forest stand age, and channel geometry together exert an important control on reach-scale wood load and aggregation. Wood loads in streams draining old-growth (> 250 years) forests of the Colorado Front Range are low compared to old-growth sites in other regions of the world, which we interpret to reflect decreased retention of wood recruited to the streams.

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