Modeling Riparian Vegetation Establishment along the Sacramento River in California

SEI is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to develop a numerical model of riparian vegetation establishment.

Operation of water management structures such as dams and diversions often negatively impact downstream geomorphologic and vegetation growth processes. This occurs due to the reduction in peak flows and sudden changes in river stage that often result from dam and diversion operations. Riparian vegetation, which serves as wildlife habitat and a source of food and fuel for human communities, has difficulty in propagating due to these changes in the stream hydrograph.

The model will be used to study the effects of reservoir operations on the establishment and survival of riparian vegetation in order to develop operations scenarios that support healthy riparian forests. The model considers the physical processes of plant growth in combination with a physically based accounting for soil moisture and atmospheric conditions, which allows for an accurate stimation of seedling survival under various river management scenarios.

SEI is calibrating the model for cottonwood trees on the Sacramento River in California through field work and a greenhouse study at the University of California at Davis. The resulting data from the experiment will be used to parameterize the Riparian Habitat Establishment Model.

Relevant publications
Yates, D., D. Purkey, J. Sieber, A. Huber-Lee, H. Galbraith, J. West, S. Herrod-Julius, C. Young, B.A. Joyce, and M. Al Raey. (2008) A Physically-Based Water Resource Planning Model for the Sacramento Basin, California USA using WEAP 21. Water Resources. in press.

SEI contact: Chuck Young

Funder: U. S. Bureau of Reclamation
Partners: University of California, Davis, WRIME, Inc.

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