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Stream channel morphology : comparison of logged and unlogged watersheds in the Queen Charlotte Islands Hogan, Daniel Lewis


This study compares the morphology of coastal, gravel-bed streams in two unlogged and two logged Queen Charlotte Islands watersheds. This comparison quantifies the influence of logging and related activities on channel morphology and, consequently, the fresh water physical habitat of salmonids. Further, it provides a basis upon which to determine habitat rehabilitation criteria for disturbed channels. Pools and riffles are detailed because: a) they reflect changes in sediment supply; b) they are important fish habitats, and; c) their general character has been documented in previously published literature allowing application of geomorphological results to habitat evaluation. Longitudinal profiles conducted over relatively long channel segments located within each watershed indicate that channels in watersheds logged to the channel banks by old techniques have reduced pool-to-pool spacings and increased riffle amplitudes and magnitudes. There is an increase in channel stored sediment resulting in proportionally larger riffles and smaller pools. This represents a reduction in available rearing habitat. No significant differences exist in pool and riffle characteristics between unlogged watersheds and those logged by contemporary techniques. In all cases the pool and riffle character differed from most previously published results. Results obtained from detailed study reaches located within each channel segment show that large organic debris is a controlling factor influencing the morphology of these streams. Based upon a comparison of reaches, it is concluded that LOD characteristics are altered in the older logged channels. This includes a shift in the size distribution, with smaller material being more prevalent. Orientation of this material is also altered; more LOD is lying parallel to the flow direction, as opposed to the more common diagonal orientation found in unlogged channels. This shift in orientation is responsible for a reduction in channel width and depth variability, reduced sediment texture, fewer cut banks, smaller pool areas and decreased channel stability. This results in reduced habitat diversity and quality. No morphological differences were detected between unlogged and recently logged reaches. The architecture of unlogged channels can be duplicated to rehabilitate disturbed streams. Pool and riffle sequences should be spaced approximately 2½ channel widths apart and riffle magnitudes should average 0.013 m/m. LOD should play a major role in rehabilitation. Long pieces of debris should be placed either diagonally across the channel to increase depth and width variability and to store sediment or parallel to the flow if width is to be reduced. Diversity can be increased by placing large root wads to produce small scour holes. Only small debris steps, accounting for approximately 10% of the overall change in elevation should be used. This comparative study of channel morphology emphasizes the importance of critically evaluating basin morphometric properties and the role of LOD orientation. Further, it indicates that previous studies reporting average values and neglecting LOD provide insufficient detail to quantify fish habitat.

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