Effects of riparian vegetation on topographic change during a large flood event, Rio Puerco, New Mexico, USA
Product Type:Journal Article
Author(s):Perignon, M.C., G.E. Tucker, E.R. Griffin, and J.M. Friedman
Suggested Citation:Perignon, M.C., G.E. Tucker, E.R. Griffin, and J.M. Friedman. 2014. Effects of riparian vegetation on topographic change during a large flood event, Rio Puerco, New Mexico, USA. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. 118(3): 1193–1209.
 The spatial distribution of riparian vegetation can strongly influence the geomorphic evolution of dryland rivers during large floods. We present the results of an airborne lidar differencing study that quantifies the topographic change that occurred along a 12 km reach of the Lower Rio Puerco, New Mexico, during an extreme event in 2006. Extensive erosion of the channel banks took place immediately upstream of the study area, where tamarisk and sandbar willow had been removed. Within the densely vegetated study reach, we measure a net volumetric change of 578,050 ± ∼ 490,000 m3, with 88.3% of the total aggradation occurring along the floodplain and channel and 76.7% of the erosion focusing on the vertical valley walls. The sediment derived from the devegetated reach deposited within the first 3.6 km of the study area, with depth decaying exponentially with distance downstream. Elsewhere, floodplain sediments were primarily sourced from the erosion of valley walls. Superimposed on this pattern are the effects of vegetation and valley morphology on sediment transport. Sediment thickness is seen to be uniform among sandbar willows and highly variable within tamarisk groves. These reach-scale patterns of sedimentation observed in the lidar differencing likely reflect complex interactions of vegetation, flow, and sediment at the scale of patches to individual plants.