Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession: Drivers of floodplain pattern

Diane C. Whited, Mark S. Lorang, Mary J. Harner, F. Richard Hauer, John S. Kimball, Jack A. Stanford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

110 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Floodplains are among the world's most threatened ecosystems due to the pervasiveness of dams, levee systems, and other modifications to rivers. Few unaltered floodplains remain where we may examine their dynamics over decadal time scales. Our study provides a detailed examination of landscape change over a 60-year period (1945-2004) on the Nyack floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, a free-flowing, gravel-bed river in northwest Montana, USA. We used historical aerial photographs and airborne and satellite imagery to delineate habitats (i.e., mature forest, regenerative forest, water, cobble) within the floodplain. We related changes in the distribution and size of these habitats to hydrologic disturbance and regional climate. Results show a relationship between changes in floodplain habitats and annual flood magnitude, as well as between hydrology and the cooling and warming phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Large magnitude floods and greater frequency of moderate floods were associated with the cooling phases of the PDO, resulting in a floodplain environment dominated by extensive restructuring and regeneration of floodplain habitats. Conversely, warming phases of the PDO corresponded with decreases in magnitude, duration, and frequency of critical flows, creating a floodplain environment dominated by late successional vegetation and low levels of physical restructuring. Over the 60-year time series, habitat change was widespread throughout the floodplain, though the relative abundances of the habitats did not change greatly. We conclude that the long- and short-term interactions of climate, floods, and plant succession produce a shifting habitat mosaic that is a fundamental attribute of natural floodplain ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-953
Number of pages14
JournalEcology
Volume88
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007

Fingerprint

floodplains
floodplain
climate
disturbance
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
habitats
habitat
oscillation
cooling
warming
habitat mosaic
airborne sensing
Platycephalidae
critical flow
dams (hydrology)
rivers
ecological succession
ecosystems
ecosystem
levee

Keywords

  • Climate
  • Floodplain
  • Hydrologic disturbance
  • PDO
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • Spatial pattern
  • Succession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Whited, D. C., Lorang, M. S., Harner, M. J., Hauer, F. R., Kimball, J. S., & Stanford, J. A. (2007). Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession: Drivers of floodplain pattern. Ecology, 88(4), 940-953. https://doi.org/10.1890/05-1149

Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession : Drivers of floodplain pattern. / Whited, Diane C.; Lorang, Mark S.; Harner, Mary J.; Hauer, F. Richard; Kimball, John S.; Stanford, Jack A.

In: Ecology, Vol. 88, No. 4, 01.04.2007, p. 940-953.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Whited, DC, Lorang, MS, Harner, MJ, Hauer, FR, Kimball, JS & Stanford, JA 2007, 'Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession: Drivers of floodplain pattern', Ecology, vol. 88, no. 4, pp. 940-953. https://doi.org/10.1890/05-1149
Whited DC, Lorang MS, Harner MJ, Hauer FR, Kimball JS, Stanford JA. Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession: Drivers of floodplain pattern. Ecology. 2007 Apr 1;88(4):940-953. https://doi.org/10.1890/05-1149
Whited, Diane C. ; Lorang, Mark S. ; Harner, Mary J. ; Hauer, F. Richard ; Kimball, John S. ; Stanford, Jack A. / Climate, hydrologic disturbance, and succession : Drivers of floodplain pattern. In: Ecology. 2007 ; Vol. 88, No. 4. pp. 940-953.
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