Effects of Large Wood on Floodplain Connectivity in a Headwater Mid-Atlantic Stream
Hession, W. Cully
Scott, D. T.
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Large wood (LW) plays an essential role in aquatic ecosystem health and function. Traditionally, LW has been removed from streams to minimize localized flooding and increase conveyance efficiency. More recently, LW is often added to streams as a component of stream and river restoration activities. While much research has focused on the role of LW in habitat provisioning, geomorphic stability, and hydraulics at low to medium flows, we know little about the role of LW during storm events. To address this question, we investigated the role of LW on floodplain connectivity along a headwater stream in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Specifically, we conducted two artificial floods, one with and one without LW, and then utilized field measurements in conjunction with hydrodynamic modeling to quantify floodplain connectivity during the experimental floods and to characterize potential management variables for optimized restoration activities. Experimental observations show that the addition of LW increased maximum floodplain inundation extent by 34%, increased floodplain inundation depth by 33%, and decreased maximum thalweg velocity by 10%. Model results demonstrated that different placement of LW along the reach has the potential to increase floodplain flow by up to 40%, with highest flooding potential at cross sections with high longitudinal velocity and shallow depth. Additionally, model simulations show that the effects of LW on floodplain discharge decrease as storm recurrence interval increases, with no measurable impact at a recurrence interval of more than 25 years.