Disturbance legacies of historic tie-drives persistently alter geomorphology and large wood characteristics in headwater streams, southeast Wyoming

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Ruffing, C., M. Daniels, and K.A. Dwire. 2015. Geomorphology 231:1–14.

doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.10.029


Instream wood is recognized as an integral component of stream morphology in forested areas. However, few studies have evaluated the legacy effects of historic wood removal activities and associated impacts on channel morphology, contemporary wood loading, and recruitment. This study investigates the role of historic tie-driving, a widespread channel disturbance legacy, in shaping present-day stream channel conditions in southern Wyoming. Geomorphic and riparian surveys were used to assess the extent of disturbance and degree of recovery within three sets of paired tie-driven and non-driven study reaches. Tie-driven streams were narrower, shallower, and had low cross-sectional roughness and higher width-to-depth ratios when compared to non-driven streams. Study reaches in first-order tie-driven streams were characterized by predominantly plane-bed morphologies and an extremely low abundance of wood compared to paired, non-driven reaches. Wood loads in second-order tie-driven reaches were similar to non-driven reaches, but overall wood distribution varied and was more likely to accumulate in jams. Existing wood loads in tie-driven reaches exhibited a narrower range of geomorphic functions and were less stable overall, although the relative state of decay was similar across all reaches. Basal area, stream power, and reach slope were identified as key mechanisms driving wood retention in the study reaches. The results of this study suggest that contemporary channel morphology and wood loads continue to reflect disturbance histories but have not yet been affected by other contemporary disturbances expected to influence wood loads such as bark beetle infestations.