Wetlands

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 292–300

Marsh development after large floods in an alluvial, arid-land river

  • Juliet C. Stromberg
  • Jana Fry
  • Duncan T. Patten
Article

Abstract

Large expanses of riverine marsh are rare in the desert Southwest, given the dry surface of many floodplain soils. Along the Hassayampa River, riverine marsh underwent a 5-fold increase (from 2% to 9% of the floodplain-channel area) after a large winter flood in 1993. Flood waters eroded terraces that had aggraded during frequent, smaller floods, widened the channel from about 3 to 50 m, and recharged the floodplain aquifer. The net effect of these changes was a lowering of the floodplain surface relative to the water table, a variable of critical importance to riparian plant composition in arid-land rivers. Olney’s bulrush (Scirpus americanus Pers.), southern cattail (Typha domingensis Pers.), jointed rush (Juncus articulatus L.), and other obligate wetland species were abundant in 1993 and 1994 on areas with saturated surface soils or shallow water tables and often were intermixed with seedlings of early-seral tree species, including Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii S. Watson), Goodding willow (Salix gooddingii Ball), and salt cedar (Tamarix chinensis Loureiro and related species). The gain in riverine marsh and young cottonwood-willow stands occurred at the expense of mature cottonwood-willow forests and deep-rooted, velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina Woot.) woodlands. Another large flood in 1995 scoured the channel of most existing vegetation and aggraded the 1993 flood channel. Early-seral tree species again established in moist soils exposed by the slowly receding flood waters. However, redevelopment of extensive marsh habitat was precluded by sediment deposition that increased the elevation of the floodplain surface relative to the water table. These changes highlight the transitory nature of riverine marsh and other vegetation patch types in the dynamic floodplains of alluvial, arid-land rivers and underscore the importance of maintaining flood flows of varying magnitude to maintain patch type diversity.

Key Words

arid-land river flood disturbance Populus fremontii riparian vegetation riverine marsh vegetation change wetlands 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Bradley, C., F. Reintjes, and J. Mahoney (eds.). 1991. The biology and status of riparian poplars in southern Alberta. World Wildlife Fund Canada and Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division. Forestry, Lands and Wildlife, Government of Alberta. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.Google Scholar
  2. Brinson, M. M. and R. Rheinhardt. 1996. The role of reference wetlands in functional assessment and mitigation. Ecological Applications 6:69–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, D. E. 1982. Biotic communities of the American Southwest-United States and Mexico. Desert Plants 4:1–342.Google Scholar
  4. Bryan, K. 1928. Change in plant association by change in ground water level. Ecology 9:474–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burkham, D. E. 1972. Channel changes of the Gila River in Safford Valley, Arizona, 1846–1970. U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 655G:1–24.Google Scholar
  6. Cooke, R. U. and R. W. Reeves. 1976. Arroyos and environmental change in the American Southwest. Clarendon Press, Oxford, England.Google Scholar
  7. Grant, G. E., J. E. Duval, G. J. Koerper, and J. L. Fogg. 1992. XSPRO: a channel cross-section analyzer. USDI Bureau of Land Management Technical Note 387.Google Scholar
  8. Hendrickson, D. A. and W. L. Minckley. 1984. Ciénegas-vanishing climax communities of the American Southwest. Desert Plants 6: 131–175.Google Scholar
  9. Hereford, R. 1986. Modern alluvial history of the Paria River Drainage Basin, southern Utah. Quaternary Research 25:293–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. House, P. K. 1995. Hydroclimatological and paleohydrological context of extreme winter flooding in Arizona, 1993. Arizona Geological Survey Open-File-Report 95–12:1–25.Google Scholar
  11. Huckleberry, G. 1994. Contrasting channel response to floods on the middle Gila River, Arizona. Geology 22:1083–1086.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hughes, F. M. R. 1994. Environmental change, disturbance, and regeneration in semi-arid floodplain forests. p. 321–345.In A. C. Millington and K. Pye (eds.) Environmental Change in Drylands: Biogeographical and Geomorphological Perspectives. John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  13. Hupp, C. R. and W. R. Osterkamp. 1996. Riparian vegetation and fluvial geomorphic processes. Geomorphology 14:277–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ish-Shalom-Gordon, N. and Y. Gutterman. 1991. Soil disturbance by a violent flood in Wadi Zin in the Negev Desert highlands of Israel. Arid Soil Research and Rehabilitation 5:251–260.Google Scholar
  15. Jenkins, M. E. 1989. Ground and surface water assessments supporting instream flow protection at the Hassayampa River Preserve, Wickenburg, Arizona. M. S. Thesis. University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA.Google Scholar
  16. Osterkamp, W. R. and J. E. Costa. 1987. Changes accompanying an extraordinary flood on a sandbed stream. p. 201–204.In L. Mayer and D. Nash (eds.) Catastrophic Flooding. Allen and Unwin, Boston, MA, USA.Google Scholar
  17. Reed, P. B., Jr. 1988. National list of plant species that occur in wetlands; Southwest (Region 7). U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C., USA. Biological Report 88(26.7).Google Scholar
  18. Richter, H. 1992. Development of a conceptual model for floodplain restoration. Arid Lands Newsletter 32:13–17.Google Scholar
  19. Schwabe, A. 1991. Re-colonization of vegetation complexes built up by riparian forests after flooding: importance of seed-drifting, generative and vegetative strategies of establishment. Phytocoenologia 20:65–94.Google Scholar
  20. Scott, M. L., J. M. Friedman, and G. T. Auble. 1996. Fluvial process and the establishment of bottombland trees. Geomorphology 14: 327–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Skoglund, S. J. 1990. Seed dispersing agents in two regularly flooded river sites. Canadian Journal of Botany 68:754–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Stromberg, J. C., D. T. Patten, and B. D. Richter. 1991. Flood flows and dynamics of Sonoran riparian forests. Rivers 2:221–235.Google Scholar
  23. Stromberg, J. C., B. D. Richter, D. T. Patten, and L. G. Wolden. 1993. Response of a Sonoran riparian forest to a 10-year return flood. Great Basin Naturalist 53:118–130.Google Scholar
  24. Stromberg, J. C., R. Tiller, and B. Richter. 1996. Effects of groundwater decline on riparian vegetation of semiarid regions: the San Pedro River, Arizona. Ecological Applications 6:113–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stromberg, J. C. 1997. Growth and survivorship of Fremont cottonwood, Goodding willow, and salt cedar seedlings after large floods in central Arizona. Great Basin Naturalist (in press).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliet C. Stromberg
    • 1
  • Jana Fry
    • 1
  • Duncan T. Patten
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Environmental StudiesArizona State UniversityTempe

Personalised recommendations