VTechWorks is currently undergoing indexing. There may be some unusual behavior with item visibility on February 24, 2018, until the index is complete. Please contact vtechworks@vt.edu if there are continuing difficulties.

Show simple item record

dc.contributor.authorJacobson, Peter Jamesen_US
dc.description.abstractHydrologic and material dynamics of ephemeral rivers were investigated in the Namib Desert to assess how hydrologic regimes shape the physical habitat template of these river ecosystems. An analysis of long-term hydrologic records revealed that the variation in mean annual runoff and peak discharge were nearly four times higher than the global average, rendering the rivers among the most variable fluvial systems yet described. Further, a pronounced downstream hydrologic decay characterized all of the rivers. The high spatio-temporal variability in flow was reflected in patterns of material transport. Retention of woody debris increased downstream, in contrast to patterns typically reported from more mesic systems, largely attributable to hydrologic decay. Woody debris piles were the principal retentive obstacles and played an important role in channel dynamics. They were also key microhabitats for various organisms, forming "hotspots" of heterotrophic activity analogous to patterns reported from perennial streams. Large amounts of fine particulate and dissolved organic matter (FPOM and DOM) deposited in the lower reaches of the rivers serve to fuel this heterotrophic biota. As a result of the hydrologic decay, sediment concentration (both organic and inorganic) increased downstream and the lower reaches of these rivers acted as sinks for material exported from their catchments. FPOM and DOM concentrations were among the highest reported for any aquatic system, and, contrary to patterns reported from more mesic systems, FPOM dominated the total organic load transported in these rivers. Inorganic solute concentration also increased downstream, resulting in a downstream increase in soluble salt content in floodplain soils. Soils within the river's lower reaches served as effective long-term integrators of hydrologic variability. The mean extent of floods entering the lower river was defined by an alluviation zone, evident from the convexity exhibited in the lower section of the rivers' longitudinal profiles. A downstream increase in the proportion of silt within floodplain soils is associated with increased sediment deposition. Silt deposition had a positive influence on moisture availability, plant rooting, and habitat suitability for various organisms, including fungi and invertebrates. In addition, a strong positive correlation was observed between silt, organic matter, and macronutrients. Thus, the hydrologic control of transport and deposition patterns has important implications for the structure and function of ephemeral river ecosystems. Finally, an examination of the influence of elephants upon riverine vegetation highlighted the importance of these systems as isolated resource patches interspersed in an arid and hostile landscape. Further, it illustrated that flooding was a key ecological process and that hydrologic alterations would affect the fluvial ecosystem as well as the regional landscape they drain.en_US
dc.publisherVirginia Techen_US
dc.rightsI hereby grant to Virginia Tech or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or in part in the University Libraries in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all proprietary rights, such as patent rights. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation.en_US
dc.subjectorganic matter dynamicsen_US
dc.subjectNamib Deserten_US
dc.titleAn ephemeral perspective of fluvial ecosystems: Viewing ephemeral rivers in the context of current lotic ecology.en_US
thesis.degree.grantorVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen_US
dc.contributor.committeechairCherry, Donald S.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberNeves, Richard J.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberWebster, Jackson R.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberDaniels, Walter Leeen_US

Files in this item


This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record