Distribution and dynamics of large woody debris and organic matter in a low-energy meandering stream

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Daniels, M.D. 2006. Geomorphology 77(3–4):286–298.

doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.01.011


This field-based study, using a combination of bed sediment sampling and large woody debris (LWD) tracking, explores the storage of organic matter and mobility of LWD in Poplar Creek, a low-energy meandering river that contains a diverse arrangement of large woody debris. This research addresses the following questions: 1) Does LWD influence the spatial pattern of the storage of benthic organic matter in meander bends? 2) How mobile is the LWD in low-gradient meandering systems? 3) Do characteristics of LWD such as length/bankfull channel width ratio, affect movement? Based on detailed sampling of sediment and LWD monitoring, this study provides a detailed representation of the influence of LWD on the storage of benthic organic matter in meander bends, as well as a detailed documentation of the mobility of LWD in the study reach. This study has demonstrated that: 1) LWD strongly influences patterns of storage of benthic organic matter in low-gradient meander bends; 2) removal of LWD from meander bends in low-gradient systems can substantially reduce the storage of benthic organic matter; and 3) the LWD within the study reach at Poplar Creek is highly mobile. The high mobility of LWD, observed in this study, contrasts with the rates observed in high-gradient systems and suggests that LWD-influenced patterns of storage of organic matter are temporally variable and that storage of benthic organic matter occurs in pulses, interspersed with transport, that are keyed to the mobility of LWD. Although LWD may exert an equally significant control over patterns of storage of organic matter in high- and low-gradient systems, the differences in the mobility rates of LWD suggest a fundamental difference in the dynamics of LWD-mediated organic matter between low- and high-gradient systems.