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Sediment transport in the West

January, 1999

Collecting data at the Squaw Creek USFS sediment transport site
Collecting data at the Squaw Creek USFS sediment transport site
Sediment transport through mountain rivers forms and maintains aquatic habitat through physical processes such as erosion, bank undercutting, sandbar formation, aggradation, gullying, and plugging. It also has important implications for water resource infrastructure. However, sediment transport cannot be understood without also considering the hydrology and geomorphology of an aquatic ecosystem. In the Rocky Mountains, sediment yield is expected to increase in a warming climate.

RMRS hosts a variety of sediment transport data collected in mountain rivers of the western United States. RMRS scientists have synthesized existing data from Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming. This research highlights the importance of sediment transport relationships and the necessity of sediment transport when considering restoration techniques for both watershed and river restoration. Specific research includes:

  1. Responses of sediment yields to climate change and wildfire.
  2. Potential consequences of altered sediment yield for aquatic habitat and water resource infrastructure.
  3. Prospects for mitigating sediment yields in forest basins.



Lisle, Thomas E. ; Buffington, John M. ; Wilcock, Peter R. ; Bunte, Kristin , 2015
Nagel, David E. ; Buffington, John M. ; Payne (Parkes) , Sharon L. ; Wenger, Seth ; Goode, Jaime R. , 2014
Hines, Sarah ; Brenkert-Smith, Hannah ; Champ, Patricia A. ; Joyce, Linda A. ; Robichaud, Pete R. ; Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E. , 2014
Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E. ; Dwire, Kathleen A. ; Dixon, Mark K. , 2011
King, John G. ; Emmett, William W. ; Whiting, Peter J. ; Kenworthy, Robert P. ; Barry, Jeffrey J. , 2004
Ryan-Burkett, Sandra E. ; Porth, Laurie ; Troendle, C. A. , 2002

National Strategic Program Areas: 
Inventory and Monitoring; Water, Air, and Soil
National Priority Research Areas: 
Watershed Management and Restoration
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Air, Water and Aquatic Environments
Project Contact: