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Steve Wondzell

Steve Wondzell
Research Ecologist
Ecological Process and Function
3200 SW Jefferson Way
Corvallis, OR 97331-8550
United States
Current Research

My research is broadly focused on riparian ecohydrology. Most of that research falls into three specific topics:

(1) The hyporheic zone - I am exploring the factors that control stream-groundwater interactions and create hyporheic zones in mountain stream networks and quantifying their effects on stream ecosystem processes.

(2) Aquatic/riparian stream network modeling - I am using models to project the response of riparian zones, stream channels, and salmon habitat to plant succession, natural disturbance, and land-use activities.

(3) Stream temperature monitoring and modeling - I am exploring the factors controlling stream temperatures and how they respond to natural disturbance, land-use practices, restoration, and climate change.

Past Research

My early career was spent as a desert plant community ecologist. I received my undergraduate degree in range science, continuing with a master's degree in plant community ecology, and then working at the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Site in the Chihuahuan Desert of south-central New Mexico. My master's thesis examined dynamics of desert grassland plant communities in the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, using data from a long-term project begun in 1955. I have been working with colleagues to continue that project, and we now have a unique, 50-year dataset, based on permanent plots and permanent photo points, that tracks vegetation dynamics in the desert grasslands and pinyon-juniper woodlands of Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Research Interest
  • Basic and applied problems in watershed management and riparian and aquatic ecosystems
  • Interactions between hydrological, geomorphological, and ecological processes that create, maintain, or modify aquatic and riparian habitats
  • Ways in which these processes either interact with, or are affected by, land-use practices
  • Developing models and decision support tools that synthesize the current knowledge of aquatic and riparian systems into forms that can help inform management decisions at large spatial and temporal scales
Why This Research Is Important
Water is of critical importance to human societies. It is a resource that is continually renewed by the hydrological cycle. Understanding the hydrological cycle and how it interacts with ecosystems is important to sustainable management of water resources. The hyporheic zone is a key component of hydrologic systems. Management decisions and their resulting effects on riparian vegetation can be a key factor determining water quality and habitat suitability for many species, including many cold-water-dependent species of salmon and trout. Understanding the factors controlling stream temperature will help inform management strategies to better cope with the effects of our changing climate.
  • Oregon State University, Ph.D., Forest Ecology/Hyporheic Zones, 1994
  • New Mexico State University, M.S., Plant Community Ecology, 1984
  • New Mexico State University, B.S., Range Science, 1981
Professional Organizations
  • Member,  American Geophysical Union,  1990 - Current
    Served as Associate Editor from January 2013 through December 2014
  • Member,  Ecological Society of America,  1990 - Current
Awards & Recognition
  • Editor's Citation for Excellence in Fefereeing - Water Resources Research, 2004
    The reviewer has been cited by editors of AGU journals for excellence in refereeing. The editors' citations recognize individuals are commended for consistently providing constructive and thoughtful reviews.
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Citations of Non-Forest Service Publications
  • Wondzell, S. M. 1984. Recovery of Desert Grasslands in Big Bend National Park Following 36 Years of Protection from Grazing of Domestic Livestock. MS Thesis, New Mexico State University.

  • Ludwig, J.A.; Wondzell, S.M. 1986. Vegetation Dynamics Following Establishment of Big Bend National Park U.S.A. In: P.J. Joss, P.W. Lynch, and O.B. Williams, eds. Rangelands: A Resource Under Siege. Proceedings of the Second International Rangeland Congress, Canberra, Australia: 13–15.

  • Wondzell, S.M.; Cunningham, G.L.; Bachelet, D. 1987. A Hierarchical Classification of Landforms: Some Implications for Understanding Local and Regional Vegetation Dynamics. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-150. United States Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 15–23.

  • Bachelet, D.; Wondzell, S.M.; Reynolds, J. F. 1988. A Simulation Model Using Environmental Cues to Predict Phenologies of Winter and Summer Annuals in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert. In: Marani, A., ed. Advances in Environmental Modelling. Elsevier: 235–260.

  • Wondzell, S.M.; Cunningham, G.L.; Cornelius, J.M. 1990. Vegetation patterns, microtopography, and soils on a Chihuahuan desert playa. Journal of Vegetation Science. 1:403–410.

  • Swanson, F.J.; Wondzell, S.M.; Grant, G.E. 1992. Landforms, Disturbance, and Ecotones. In: F. diCastri and A.J. Hansen, eds. Landscape boundaries: Consequences for biotic diversity and ecological flows. Springer-Verlag. 92:304–323.

  • Wondzell, S. 1994. Flux of ground water and nitrogen through the floodplain of a fourth-order stream. Ph.D. Thesis. Oregon State University, Corvallis OR.

  • Wondzell, S.; Ludwig, J.A. 1995. Community Dynamics of Desert Grasslands: Influences of Climate, Landforms, and Soils. Journal of Vegetation Science. 6:377–390.

  • Wondzell, S. M.; Cunningham, G.L.; Bachelet, D. 1996. Relationships between Landforms, Geomorphic Processes, and Vegetative Communities on a Watershed in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert. Landscape Ecology. 11:351–362.

  • Wondzell, S.M.; Swanson, F.J. 1996. Seasonal and storm dynamics of the hyporheic zone of a 4th-order mountain stream. I: Hydrologic processes. The Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 15:3–19.

  • Wondzell, S.; Swanson, F.J. 1996. Seasonal and storm dynamics of the hyporheic zone of a 4th-order mountain stream. II: Nitrogen cycling. The Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 15:20–34.

  • Pinay, G.; Ruffinoni, C.; Wondzell, S.M.; Gazelle, F. 1998. Change in groundwater nitrate concentration in a large river floodplain: Denitrification, uptake, or mixing? The Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 17:179–189.

  • Wondzell, S. M.; Swanson, F.J. 1999. Floods, Channel Change and the Hyporheic Zone. Water Resources Research. 35:355–368.

  • Johnson, S. L.; Swanson, F.J.; Grant, G.E.; Wondzell, S.M. 2000. Riparian forest disturbances by a mountain flood – the influence of floated wood. Hydrological Processes. 14:3031–3050.

  • Nakamura, F.; Swanson, F. J.; and Wondzell, S.M. 2000. Disturbance regimes of stream and riparian systems – a disturbance-cascade perspective. Hydrological Processes. 14:2849–2860.

  • Wondzell, S. M. 2001. The Influence of Forest Health and Protection Treatments on Erosion and Stream Sedimentation in Forested Watersheds of Eastern Oregon and Washington. Northwest Science. 75:128–140.

  • Haggerty, R.; Wondzell, S.M.; Johnson, M.A. 2002. Power-Law Residence Time Distribution in the Hyporheic Zone of a 2nd-Order Mountain Stream. Geophysical Research Letters. 29(13):18-1–18-4. doi:10.1029/2002GL014743

Research Highlights

Streams and Their Hyporheic Zones Substantially Influence Carbon Export from Pacific Northwestern Headwater Streams

Year: 2016
This foundational information can be used to calculate carbon storage in Pacific Northwest forests. It will be essential to future polices for carbon management, including requirement for carbon consideration in national forest planning under the 2012 Planning Rule.

FLOwPER: A New Mobile App for Collecting Stream Data Essential for Management

Year: 2020
The western Oregon stream FLOW PERmanence (FLOwPER) projectis using the latest technology to more accurately characterize headwater streams in western Oregon as seasonal or year-round flows. The presence of year-round water determines the size of riparian buffers that are required by the Northwest F...