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    Author(s): Alex D. FosterShannon M. Claeson; Peter A. Bisson; John Heimburg
    Date: 2020
    Source: Ecology and Evolution. 10(6): 2749-2777.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (4.0 MB)


    An exceptionally powerful storm struck southwestern Washington in December 2007 causing large debris flows in two adjacent streams. The two affected streams had been studied prior to the storm, providing a rare opportunity to examine ecosystem recovery. We monitored the streams and their riparian zones for six years after the disturbances to determine whether recovery rates of biota, physical habitat, and water temperature differed, and if so, what factors affected resilience. Along both streams, the debris flows removed wide swaths of soil, rock, and coniferous riparian forests, widening the active channel and increasing solar exposure and summer water temperatures. Initially depauperate of vegetation, after four years red alder trees dominated the riparian plant communities. The warmer water, greater solar radiation, and unstable substrates likely contributed to variable benthic insect and tailed frog tadpole densities over time, although benthic insect communities became more similar after three years. The debris flows also decreased channel slopes and removed channel step barriers such that cutthroat trout were able to rapidly occupy habitats far upstream, but sculpins were slower to recolonize and both fish species exhibited some differences in recovery between the two streams. Crayfish were severely impacted by the debris flows; this may be due to attributes of their life history and the timing of the flows. Overall, we found that recolonizing aquatic species exhibited varying levels of resilience and recovery after the disturbances being related to the influence of physical habitat conditions, species dispersal ability, and the presence of nearby source populations.

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    Foster, Alex D.; Claeson, Shannon M.; Bisson, Peter A.; Heimburg, John. 2020. Aquatic and riparian ecosystem recovery from debris flows in two western Washington streams, USA. Ecology and Evolution. 10(6): 2749-2777.


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    Barrier, colonization, dispersal, disturbance, landslide, riparian.

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