Climatic, hydraulics, hydrologic, and fluvial geomorphic processes are the main drivers of riparian white alder (Alnus rhombifolia Nutt.) distribution in northern California. The Mediterranean climate and canyon bound, bedrock-gravel morphology of the South Fork Eel have a distinct effect on these processes. White alder seeds are preferentially deposited on river bars where river hydraulics create eddies coinciding with the downstream part of riffles and the upstream part of pools. Seeds are generally deposited below bankfull elevations by the descending hydrograph during the spring season in this Mediterranean climate. For successful germination and establishment, the seeds must be deposited at a location such that they are not remobilized by late spring flows. The summer establishment period is defined from the date of seed deposition and germination to the fall/winter date of river sediment mobilization. Seedling root growth rate decreases exponentially with decreasing water potential. However, seedlings are shown not to be generally limited by water availability at the elevations they are most commonly deposited. The establishment of white alder seedlings following the first summer will therefore depend on their ability to resist fall/winter high flows. The method proposed here compares the predicted rooting depth to predicted sediment scour rates. The length of the establishment period rather than water availability determines final seedling rooting depth. Over the past 40years, very few years had establishment periods that were long enough or had fast enough alder growth rates to survive winter floods that often scour deeper than the total root length. The low survival of seedlings in the first autumn season following germination is believed to be a principal reason for the missing age classes often found in alder distributions along rivers.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2017
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