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Creators/Authors contains: "Steel, E."

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  1. Abstract

    Successful management of flooding and erosion hazards on floodplains depends on our ability to predict a river channel's shape and the lifespan during which it will continue to flow. Recent progress has improved our understanding of what sets the lifespan and width of single‐thread channels; the next challenge is to extend this knowledge to braided channels and their interwoven sub‐channels (threads). In this study, we investigate the lifespan and width of braided channel threads in a large experimental data set, coupled with particle‐image velocimetry‐derived measurements of riverbank erosion and accretion. We find that, unlike single‐thread channels, braided channels in the experiment do not exhibit an equilibrium between bank erosion and accretion. Instead, bank erosion outpaces lateral accretion, causing individual threads to widen and infill until they are abandoned. Thread lifespan is limited to the time it takes for threads to triple their width: tripling of the width yields enough bank material to aggrade more than half the channel depth, at which point flow is rerouted to a narrower thread. In consequence the width of active threads is limited to three times their initial width. Threshold channel theory accurately predicts the median thread width, which is roughly double the initial width and two‐thirds the limiting width. The results are consistent with existing field data and suggest that differential bank migration is sufficient to explain why braided channels show greater width variability and higher width‐to‐depth ratios than their single‐thread counterparts.

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  2. Abstract

    In mountainous river basins of the Pacific Northwest, climate models predict that winter warming will result in increased precipitation falling as rain and decreased snowpack. A detailed understanding of the spatial and temporal dynamics of water sources across river networks will help illuminate climate change impacts on river flow regimes. Because the stable isotopic composition of precipitation varies geographically, variation in surface water isotope ratios indicates the volume‐weighted integration of upstream source water. We measured the stable isotope ratios of surface water samples collected in the Snoqualmie River basin in western Washington over June and September 2017 and the 2018 water year. We used ordinary least squares regression and geostatistical Spatial Stream Network models to relate surface water isotope ratios to mean watershed elevation (MWE) across seasons. Geologic and discharge data was integrated with water isotopes to create a conceptual model of streamflow generation for the Snoqualmie River. We found that surface water stable isotope ratios were lowest in the spring and highest in the dry, Mediterranean summer, but related strongly to MWE throughout the year. Low isotope ratios in spring reflect the input of snowmelt into high elevation tributaries. High summer isotope ratios suggest that groundwater is sourced from low elevation areas and recharged by winter precipitation. Overall, our results suggest that baseflow in the Snoqualmie River may be relatively resilient to predicted warming and subsequent changes to snowpack in the Pacific Northwest.

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  3. Abstract

    Deltaic river networks naturally reorganize as interconnected channels move to redistribute water, sediment, and nutrients across the delta plain. Network change is documented in decades of satellite imagery and laboratory experiments, but our ability to measure and understand channel movements is limited: existing methods are difficult to employ efficiently and struggle to distinguish between gradual movements (channel migration) and abrupt shifts in river course (channel avulsions). Here, we present a method to extract channel migration from plan‐view imagery using particle image velocimetry (PIV). Although originally designed to track particles moving in a fluid, PIV can be adapted to track channels moving on the delta surface, based on input estimates of channel width, migration timescale, and maps of the wet‐dry interface. Results for a delta experiment show that PIV‐derived vector fields accurately capture channel‐bank movements, as compared to manually drawn maps and an independent image‐registration technique. Unlike other methods, PIV targets the process of channel migration, excluding changes associated with channel avulsions and overbank flow. PIV‐derived migration rates from the experiment span an order of magnitude and are reduced under lower sediment supply and during sea‐level rise, supporting recent models. Together, results indicate that PIV offers a fast and reliable way to measure channel migration in river networks, that channel migration rates under non‐cohesive conditions can displace channels a distance comparable to their width in the time needed to aggrade ∼10% of the channel depth, and that migration direction is ∼60% orthogonal to mean flow direction and ∼40% flow‐parallel overall.

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  4. Abstract

    The ecosystem services provided by freshwater biodiversity are threatened by development and environmental and climate change in the Anthropocene.

    Here, case studies are described to show that a focus on the shared dependence on freshwater ecosystem functioning can mutually benefit fisheries and conservation agendas in the Anthropocene.

    Meeting the threat to fish biodiversity and fisher livelihood is pertinent in developing regions where there is often a convergence between high biodiversity, high dependency on aquatic biota and rapid economic development (see Kafue River, Logone floodplain, Tonle Sap, and Rio Negro case studies).

    These case studies serve as evidence that biodiversity conservation goals can be achieved by emphasizing a sustainable fisheries agenda with partnerships, shared knowledge and innovation in fisheries management (see Kafue River and Kenai River case studies).

    In all case studies, aquatic biodiversity conservation and fisheries agendas are better served if efforts focused on creating synergies between fishing activities with ecosystem functioning yield long‐term livelihood and food security narratives.

    A unified voice from conservation and fisheries communities has more socio‐economic and political capital to advocate for biodiversity and social interests in freshwater governance decisions.

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