Proceedings of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Sediment Workshop, February 4-7, 1997



Mary Ann Madej,
Redwood Field Station,
California Science Center (CSC) Biological
Resources Division,
U.S. Geological Survey,
Arcata, California.

The California Science Center of the USGS-BRD conducts research programs involving fish, wildlife, and landscape dynamics in various field stations throughout the state. The Center's program develops strategies to assess the status and trends of biota and to predict the ecological consequences of management actions. The Redwood Field Station focuses on geologic research necessary to ensure effective land management of steep, forested landscapes that have been or will be logged, grazed, mined or developed. Specific objectives include an understanding of erosion and sedimentation processes in highly unstable terrain, as well as human influences upon those processes. The research program encompasses the general areas of hillslope and fluvial geomorphology, restoration of disturbed lands, and the impacts of erosion and sedimentation on river channels, over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. Studies are designed to determine how changing land use patterns affect the rates and distribution of erosional processes, how damages resulting from land use modifications can be reversed or ameliorated, and how riparian and aquatic habitats are influenced by geomorphic controls. Sediment dynamics play a pivotal role in these research projects. The major issues involving sediment studies are as follows:

Effects of In-stream Gravel Extraction

Extraction of in-stream gravel is a major industry in California, and such mining operations threaten bank stability and aquatic habitat in many rivers in California, Oregon and Washington. Monitoring of gravel transport and post-mining alterations is done in conjunction with fisheries biologists to assess the effects of gravel extraction on the distribution of suitable spawning and rearing habitat in the rivers and on riparian vegetation. Research is needed to help predict the quantity and timing of gravel recruitment in a given river reach, the effects of gravel mining on channel morphology, and the recovery processes in rivers after mining. Two major questions to be answered by this research are: How much gravel can be extracted without causing serious channel modifications, and what method of extraction is least damaging to aquatic habitat?

Propagation and Migration of Sediment Waves

Sediment waves are large pulses of bedload movement in rivers. They are of interest in many mountainous areas because of the threat they pose to human development, flood protection, reservoir capacity and--in the case of Redwood National Park--to old-growth redwood groves growing along Redwood Creek. Fisheries biologists are interested in how such waves affect pool depths and frequencies, and the subsequent impact on fish populations. Long-term monitoring of cross-channel and longitudinal transects can document the movement of such waves. The Redwood Field Station is using field data from Redwood Creek as a basis for modeling how sediment waves form, their rate of movement, controls on transport rates and the morphologic changes associated with wave propagation and migration.

The Role of Channel-Stored Sediment in Sediment Transport Regimes

Sediment yields are commonly used to gage the effects of land use changes on sediment production; however if sediment is stored temporarily in a stream channel or its floodplains, the sediment yields measured at the mouth of a river may not reflect the increased erosion rates upstream. Alternatively, as sediment is eroded from in-channel storage sites, sediment yields may increase. Significant increases in the amounts of sediment in storage can lead to complex changes in fluvial landforms, which can subsequently change patterns of sediment transport. The frequency of sediment movement and distance moved depend not only on the particle size of sediment, but also on the location of sediment within the channel. An unvegetated gravel bar represents a much more mobile storage feature than a forested floodplain, for example. This research focuses on quantifying changes in channel-stored sediment throughout a river network and modeling the residence times of sediment stored in different geomorphic units ranging from active gravel bars to floodplains. Results of sediment storage research have implications for contaminant studies as well. For example, the residence times of metal-contaminated mine tailings in temporary channel storage may be of concern to local and downstream communities.

Analysis of Historical River Channel Changes

It is frequently difficult to separate 'natural' processes, such as bank erosion along a meandering river, from man-induced erosion. Land managers need to know in what state the rivers once existed in order to guide their efforts in restoring damaged streams. Present day variability in sediment production, storage and transport needs to be viewed within a long-term, basin-wide perspective. We need to extend our knowledge of local processes and responses to broader temporal and spatial scales. Extending a monitoring record by examining historical records and analyzing stratigraphic evidence is one way of determining the magnitude and type of past changes, before extensive manmade manipulations occurred. The examination of historical maps and archival material, climatic records, aerial photographs and soil cores can help in formulating the history of channel changes. Flood frequency and associated floodplain sedimentation can be compared before and after the advent of widespread timber harvest and other land use disturbances. The thickness and size distribution of recent flood deposits and locations of deposition can be compared to deposits which predate watershed disturbances. In response to concerns of land managers, the present research efforts have focused on reconstructing the history of floodplain development in the Merced River, Yosemite Valley, and in Redwood Creek, northwestern California.

Changes in the Size Distribution of River Bed Substrate

Salmon and other aquatic organisms are sensitive to the size distribution of river bed substrate. Adequate gravels with a minimum amount of silt are needed for successful spawning and providing habitat for invertebrates. Land use changes in watersheds (timber harvest, dam construction and operation, highway construction, fire) frequently cause changes in the size distribution of river bed substrate and the degree of armoring in gravel bed rivers. In large part the size of the armor layer controls the initiation of sediment transport and gravel bar mobility. It also affects how easily spawning salmon can build redds. Flume studies have been useful, but are limited in scope, and field work in natural rivers is needed to supplement laboratory experiments. The spatial variability of streambed armoring is high, and for example, the streamwise sorting of bed particles during recessional flows can affect size-selectivity in bedload transport during subsequent rising stages. Research at the Redwood Field Station addresses the role of non uniformity and unsteadiness of flow in natural river channels and its influence on channel armoring and fine sediment deposition in coarse gravel-bedded rivers. Also, the relationship of scour depth in coarse gravel-bedded rivers and stream discharge at typical salmon redd locations is being explored. These research topics are examples of how sediment studies can provide useful information to aquatic ecologists.

Restoration of Disturbed Hillslopes and River Channels

Since 1978, Redwood National Park has conducted watershed restoration work on hillslopes and in channels damaged by past logging activities. The focus of the rehabilitation work has been to reduce sediment inputs into perennial stream channels. The President's Northwest Forest Management Plan calls for extensive watershed restoration work of this type on forested lands throughout the Pacific Northwest, and much restoration work is currently being conducted on federal lands in the western United States. Researchers at the Redwood Field Station evaluate the effectiveness of terrestrial restoration work on improving aquatic habitat. The basic question is one of sediment routing--by what processes and at what rates do fine and coarse sediments get transferred from abandoned logging roads into low-order channels and subsequently into high order channels and into estuaries, lakes, and oceans? How do changes in sediment flux affect channel morphology? And what role should in-stream structures have in this restoration effort? Predicting sediment flux in mountain watersheds is problematic because standard entrainment and transport equations were not developed for these conditions (steep channels, boulder and cobble beds, and large woody debris in channels). The present studies integrate the topics of sediment production, transport and storage, and are necessary to understand the linkage between land use and channel ecology.

Mary Ann Madej is presently a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, California Science Center, at the Redwood Field Station in Arcata, California. She received her Bachelors degree (1975) in geology from Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, and her Masters degree (1978) from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. She is presently a Ph.D. candidate at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Since 1978, her research has focused on studying the effects of erosion and sedimentation on the landscapes and ecosystems of steep, forested watersheds in the western United States. Her geomorphic studies cover a range of habitats: rivers, estuaries, lagoons, riparian zones, wetlands, coastlines, coniferous forests, oak-woodlands and grasslands. She has been invited to present her research results at several international meetings, in Italy, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. She cooperates frequently with scientists and resource managers in many national parks, universities, the U.S. Forest Service, and state agencies.

Pertinent References:

Kelsey, H.M., M.A. Madej, J. Pitlick, P. Stroud and M. Coghlan. 1981. Major and limits to the effectiveness of erosion control techniques in the highly erosive watersheds of north coastal California. In: Proceedings of a Symposium on Erosion and Sediment Transportin Pacific Rim Steeplands. January 25-31, 1981. Christchurch, New Zealand. IAHS-AISH Publication Number 132. International Association of Hydrological Sciences. Washington, D.C. pp. 493-510.

Kelsey, H.M., R. Lamberson and M.A. Madej. 1986. Modelling the transport of stored sediment in a gravel-bed river, northwestern California. International Association of Hydrologic Sciences Publication 159. pp. 367-392.

Kelsey, H.M., R. Lamberson and M.A. Madej. 1987. Stochastic model for long-term transpor of stored sediment in a river channel. Water Resources Research. Vol. 23, No. 9. September 1987. pp. 1738-1750.

Lisle, T.E. and M.A. Madej. 1992. Spatial variation in armouring in a channel with high sediment supply. p. 277-296 in Dynamics of Gravel-bed Rivers, P. Billi, R.D. Hey, C.R. Thorne, and P. Tacconi, eds. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 673 pp.

Madej, M.A. 1981. Impacts and management of steepland erosion: A review. Journal of Hydrology (New Zealand). Vol. 20, No. 1, p. 108-111.

Madej, M.A. 1982. Sediment transport and channel changes in an aggrading stream in the Puget Lowland, Washington. pp. 97-108 in Sediment Budgets and Routing in Forested Drainage Basins. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report PNW 141.165 pp.

Madej, M.A. 1987. Residence times of channel-stored sediment in Redwood Creek, northwestern California. pp. 429-438. In: R.L. Beschta, et al. (eds.) Erosion and Sedimentation in the Pacific Rim. Corvallis, Oregon. August 1987. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication No. 165. 510 pp.

Madej, M.A. 1990. Determining replenishment rates for aggregate mining. Proceedings of the Eighth Annual California Salmon, Steelhead and Trout Restoration Conference. Eureka, California. February 22-25, 1990. pp. 71-76.

Madej, M.A. 1992. Cooperative erosion control efforts based on sediment transport trends, Redwood Creek, north coastal California. p. 373-388 in Interdisciplinary Approaches in Hydrology and Hydrogeology, M.E. Jones and A. Laenen, eds., American Institute of Hydrology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 618 pp.

Madej, M.A. 1993. Development, implementation, and evaluation of watershed rehabilitation in Redwood National Park. p. 75-82 in Watershed and Stream Restoration Workshop: Shared Responsibilities for Shared Watershed Resources. Symposium Proceedings of the American Fisheries Society. Portland, OR. 129 pp.

Madej, M.A. 1995. Changes in channel-stored sediment, Redwood Creek, Northwestern California, 1947-1980. Chapter O in U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1454. Geomorphic Processes and Aquatic Habitat in the Redwood Creek Basin, Northwestern California. K.M. Nolan, H.M. Kelsey, and D.C. Marron, eds.

Madej, M.A. 1996. Measures of stream recovery after watershed restoration. p. 47-56 in Proceedings on Watershed Restoration Management: Physical, Chemical and Biological Considerations. J. J. McDonnell, J. B. Stribling, L.R. Neville, and D.J. Leopold, eds. American Water Resources Association. Syracuse, New York. 524 pp.

Madej, M.A. and H.M. Kelsey. 1981. Sediment routing in stream channels: its implications for watershed rehabilitation. pp. 17-25 in Proceedings, Symposium on Watershed Rehabilitation in Redwood National Park and Other Coastal Areas. R.N. Coats, Ed. Center for Natural Resource Studies of the John Muir Institute. Berkeley, California. 360 pp.

Madej, M.A., W.E. Weaver, and D.K. Hagans. 1994. Analysis of bank erosion on the Merced River, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Environmental Management Vol. 18, No. 2, p. 235-250.

Madej, M.A. and V. Ozaki. 1996. Channel response to sediment wave propagation and movement, Redwood Creek, California, USA. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. Vol. 21, 911-927.

Meyer, C.B., M.A. Madej, and R.D. Klein. 1993. Effects of fine sediment on salmonid redds in Prairie Creek, a tributary of Redwood Creek, Humboldt County, California. p. 47-55 in Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Research in California's National Parks. Veirs, S.D., T.J. Stohlgran, and C. Schonewald-Cox, eds. Transactions and Proceedings Series 9. United States Department of the Interior. 156 pp.

Weaver, W. and M. A. Madej. 1981. Erosion control techniques used in Redwood National Park, northern California, 1978-1979. p. 640-645 in Proceedings of a Symposium on Erosion and Sediment Transport in Pacific Rim Steeplands, Christchurch, New Zealand. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication Number 132. Washington, D.C.

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