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Riparian Reforestation and Channel Change: A Case Study of Two Small Tributaries to Sleepers River, Northeastern Vermont, USA

Geomorphology, 102, 445-459, 2008


Status: Published

Citations:

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Abstract: Measurements of two small streams in northeastern Vermont, collected in 1966 and 2004–2005, document considerable change in channel width following a period of passive reforestation. Channel widths of several tributaries to Sleepers River in Danville, VT, USA, were previously measured in 1966 when the area had a diverse patchwork of forested and nonforested riparian vegetation. Nearly 40 years later, we remeasured bed widths and surveyed large woody debris (LWD) in two of these tributaries, along 500 m of upper Pope Brook and along nearly the entire length (3 km) of an unnamed tributary (W12). Following the longitudinal survey, we collected detailed channel and riparian information for nine reaches along the same two streams. Four reaches had reforested since 1966; two reaches remained nonforested. The other three reaches have been forested since at least the 1940s. Results show that reforested reaches were significantly wider than as measured in 1966, and they are more incised than all other forested and nonforested reaches. Visual observations, cross-sectional surveys, and LWD characteristics indicate that reforested reaches continue to change in response to riparian reforestation. The three reaches with the oldest forest were widest for a given drainage area, and the nonforested reaches were substantially narrower. Our observations culminated in a conceptual model that describes a multiphase process of incision, widening, and recovery following riparian reforestation of nonforested areas. Results from this case study may help inform stream restoration efforts by providing insight into potentially unanticipated changes in channel size associated with the replanting of forested riparian buffers adjacent to small streams.



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