Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Merced

UC Merced Previously Published Works bannerUC Merced

Impacts of climate and forest management on suspended sediment source and transport in montane headwater catchments

The data associated with this publication are in the supplemental files.

Suspended sediment transport in montane headwaters is important to water quality and nutrient balances. However, predictions of sediment source and transport can be difficult, in part, because of a changing climate and increasing frequencies of disturbances. We used observations from 10 headwater streams in water year (WY; starting on 1st October ending on 30th September) 2007–2009 and 2013–2018 to determine the potential impacts of climate and forest management on suspended sediment delivery. We analysed hysteretic responses of suspended sediment for 76 events in five headwater catchments within a snow-dominated site and another five within a lower-elevation, rain-snow transition site, in the mixed-conifer zone of California's Sierra Nevada. Hysteresis patterns were predominantly clockwise at both sites, suggesting localized sediment sources such as streambeds and banks. The warmer, transition site exhibited a lower proportion of clockwise-loop events, faster transport speed and higher peak sediment concentrations than the snow-dominated site. This suggests extended sediment sources and increases in transport can occur as currently snow-dominated areas become rain-snow transitional. Over the nine water years, we observed similar hysteresis effects amongst years under drought, near-average, and extremely wet conditions. Hence, fluctuations in precipitation amounts across years may not influence sediment source area substantially. Furthermore, we compared hysteresis metrics between the control, thin only, burn only and thin combined with burn catchments during the posttreatment period (WY 2013– 2018). Hysteresis effects remained unchanged amongst treatments, which may be attributed to the combinations of low-intensity operations implemented with best management practises combined with a four-year drought (WY 2013–2016). Taken together, sediment sources in small headwater catchments will probably remain localized with changing precipitation levels and low-intensity management operations, but it may be extended and potentially lead to higher sediment yields as the main hydrologic input shifts from primarily snow to a mix of rain and snow.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View