Reach-scale characterization of large woody debris in a low-gradient, Midwestern U.S.A. river system


Addition of large woody debris (LWD) to rivers has increasingly become a popular stream restoration strategy, particularly in river systems of the Midwestern United States. However, our knowledge of LWD dynamics is mostly limited to high gradient montane river systems, or coastal river systems. The LWD-related management of low-gradient, Midwestern river systems is thus largely based on higher gradient analogs of LWD dynamics. This research characterizes fluvial wood loads and investigates the relationships between fluvial wood, channel morphology, and sediment deposition in a relatively low-gradient, semiconfined, alluvial river. The LWD and channel morphology were surveyed at nine reaches along the Big River in southeastern Missouri to investigate those relationships in comparison to other regions. Wood loads in the Big River are low (3-114 m3/100 m) relative to those of higher gradient river systems of the Pacific Northwest, but high relative to lower-gradient river systems of the Eastern United States. Wood characteristics such as size and orientation suggest that the dominant LWD recruitment mechanism in the Big River is bank erosion. Also, ratios of wood geometry to channel geometry show that the Big River maintains a relatively high wood transport capacity for most of its length. Although LWD creates sites for sediment storage, the overall impact on reach-scale sediment storage in the Big River is low (< 4.2% of total in-channel storage). However, wood loads, and thus opportunities for sediment storage, have the potential to grow in the future as Midwestern riparian forests mature. This study represents the first of its kind within this particular type of river system and within this region and thus serves as a basis for understanding fluvial wood dynamics in low-gradient river systems of the Midwestern United States.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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large woody debris, fluvial geomorphology, riparian ecology, stream restoration, Ozarks

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