Biophysical systems in mountain river corridors: bridging geomorphology and ecology for watershed science & management
Dr. Piotr Cienciala, Department of Geography & GIS; Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology (Affiliate); University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rapid development of interdisciplinary research which integrates knowledge from geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology has significantly improved the understanding of interactions between physical and biological processes in river corridors. This body of research has also contributed to advancements in integrated watershed management and monitoring. In my talk, I will focus specifically on river corridors in mountainous landscapes. Mountain environments, which cover close to 25% of the world’s land surface, are particularly sensitive to climate change. In addition, high connectivity in such landscapes facilitates spatial transmission of hydro-geomorphic disturbances. As a result, there has been considerable concern about managing, conserving, and restoring river corridor ecosystems in mountainous areas. I will use examples from my research program in the Pacific Northwest to illustrate some of the approaches that integrate field observations and models to gain insights into bio-physical interactions in mountain stream networks. I will primarily focus on organism-habitat relationships for salmonids, an ecologically, culturally, and economically important family of fish which inhabit mountain streams. However, I will also provide an overview of ongoing work on other elements of river corridor ecosystem, especially riparian forests. I will discuss the implications of this research program for watershed conservation and restoration.