Pike A.S.

Longitudinal Patterns in Stream Channel Geomorphology and Aquitic Habitat in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico

The hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecological dynamics of tropical montane streams are poorly understood in comparison to many temperate and/or alluvial rivers. Yet as the threat to tropical freshwater environments increases, information on the dynamics of relatively pristine streams is important for understanding landscape evolution, managing and conserving natural resources, and implementing stream restoration. This dissertation characterizes the geomorphology and hydrology of five adjacent watersheds draining the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) in northeastern Puerto Rico, and discusses implications on aquatic habitat. I performed several interrelated studies, including: 1) formulating a geographic information systems (GIS) framework to estimate hydrologic parameters from topographic information and hydrologic records, 2) developing a method to determine active stream channel boundaries (“bankfull” stage) that allows for comparison of channel geometry on the basis of flow-frequency, 3) decoupling the relative influences of lithologic and hydraulic controls on channel morphology using an extensive field-based stream survey and analysis of stream profiles, channel geometry, and sediment dynamics, 4) linking network- and pool-scale geofluvial dynamics to the abundance of migratory fish and shrimp through a collaborative analysis combining geomorphic surveys and aquatic faunal sampling. This research indicates that these streams have some properties resembling both temperate montane and alluvial rivers. Similar to low-gradient rivers where floodplains mark channel boundaries, the active channel stage in these streams is defined by the incipient presence of woody vegetation and soil development. Systematic basin-scale geomorphic patterns are well-developed despite apparent non-fluvial and lithologic control on local channel morphology. This implies that strong fluvial forces are sufficient to override channel boundary resistance; a feature common in self-forming “threshold” alluvial channels. Migratory aquatic fauna abundances are influenced by a variety of geomorphic factors such as barrier waterfalls and suitable headwater habitat, and are consequently highly variable and patchy. These results stand in contrast to the notion that aquatic communities mirror systematic geomorphic gradients, but rather acknowledges the influences of multiscale geomorphic processes. Ultimately, this research provides baseline information on physical and biological processes in relatively unaltered tropical streams and can be used to inform further studies that document human interactions with stream networks.

Lithological and fluvial controls on the geomorphology of tropical montane stream channels in Puerto Rico

Pike, Andrew S.; Scatena, F.N.; Wohl, Ellen E. 2010. Lithological and fluvial controls on the geomorphology of tropical montane stream channels in Puerto Rico. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.1978.

An extensive survey and topographic analysis of fi ve watersheds draining the Luquillo Mountains in north-eastern Puerto Rico was conducted to decouple the relative infl uences of lithologic and hydraulic forces in shaping the morphology of tropical montane stream channels. The Luquillo Mountains are a steep landscape composed of volcaniclastic and igneous rocks that exert a localized lithologic infl uence on the stream channels. However, the stream channels also experience strong hydraulic forcing due to high unit discharge in the humid rainforest environment. GIS-based topographic analysis was used to examine channel profi les, and survey data were used to analyze downstream changes in channel geometry, grain sizes, stream power, and shear stresses. Results indicate that the longitudinal profi les are generally well graded but have concavities that refl ect the infl uence of multiple rock types and colluvial-alluvial transitions. Non-fl uvial processes, such as landslides, deliver coarse boulder-sized sediment to the channels and may locally determine channel gradient and geometry. Median grain size is strongly related to drainage area and slope, and coarsens in the headwaters before fi ning in the downstream reaches; a pattern associated with a mid-basin transition between colluvial and fluvial processes. Downstream hydraulic geometry relationships between discharge, width and velocity (although not depth) are well developed for all watersheds. Stream power displays a mid-basin maximum in all basins, although the ratio of stream power to coarse grain size (indicative of hydraulic forcing) increases downstream. Excess dimensionless shear stress at bankfull fl ow wavers around the threshold for sediment mobility of the median grain size, and does not vary systematically with bankfull discharge; a common characteristic in self-forming ‘threshold’ alluvial channels. The results suggest that although there is apparent bedrock and lithologic control on local reach-scale channel morphology, strong fluvial forces acting over time have been suffi cient to override boundary resistance and give rise to systematic basin-scale patterns.

Riparian indicators of flow frequency in a tropical montane stream network

Pike, A. S., and Scatena, F. N., 2010, Riparian indicators of flow frequency in a tropical montane stream
network: Journal of Hydrology, v. 382, p. 72–87, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.12.019.

Many field indicators have been used to approximate the magnitude and frequency of flows in a variety of streams and rivers, yet due to a scarcity of long-term flow records in tropical mountain streams, little to no work has been done to establish such relationships between field features and the flow regime in these environments. Furthermore, the transition between the active channel of a river and the adjacent flood zone (i.e. bankfull) is an important geomorphologic and ecological boundary, but is rarely identifiable in steep mountain channels that lack alluvial flood plains. This study (a) quantifies relationships between field indicators and flow frequency in alluvial and steepland channels in a tropical mountain stream network and (b) identifies a reference active channel boundary in these channels, based on statistically defined combinations of riparian features, that corresponds to the same flow frequency of the bankfull stage and the effective discharge in adjacent alluvial channels. The relative elevation of transitions in riparian vegetation, soil, and substrate characteristics were first surveyed at nine stream gages in and around the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Northeastern Puerto Rico. The corresponding discharge, flow frequency, and recurrence intervals associated with these features was then determined from longterm 15-min discharge records and a partial duration series analysis. Survey data indicate that mosses and short grasses dominate at a stage often inundated by sub-effective flows. Herbaceous vegetation is associated with intermediate discharges that correspond to the threshold for sediment mobilization. Near-channel woody shrubs and trees establish at elevations along the channel margin inundated by a less frequent discharge that is coincident with the effective discharge of bed load sediment transport. Our data demonstrate that in alluvial channels in the study, both the bankfull stage (as marked by a flood plain) and the channel-forming (effective) discharge are associated with the presence of fine-grained substrate and soil, and tall, mature woody vegetation. In montane reaches that lack a flood plain, a boundary that is characterized by the incipient presence of soil, woody shrubs, and trees corresponds to the same flow frequency as the bankfull discharge of nearby alluvial channels. The reference discharge based on these riparian features in steepland sites has an average exceedance probability between 0.09% and 0.30%, and a recurrence interval between 40 and 90 days. We conclude that flows with similar frequencies influence the establishment of riparian vegetation, soil development, and substrate characteristics along channel margins in similar ways. Thus, these riparian features can be used as an indicator of hydrogeomorphic site conditions to identify active channel boundaries that occur at a constant flow frequency throughout the study stream network.

Effects of coupled natural and anthropogenic factors on the community structure of diadromous fish and shrimp species in tropical island streams

CATHERINE L. HEIN*, ANDREW S. PIKE†1 , JUAN F. BLANCO‡, ALAN P. COVICH§ , FREDERICK N. SCATENA†, CHARLES P. HAWKINS* AND TODD A. CROWL. Effects of coupled natural and anthropogenic factors on the community structure of diadromous fish and shrimp species in tropical island streams. Freshwater Biology. Vol 56, Is 5 pp 1002-1015.

1. Overlapping river and road networks provide a framework for studying the complex interactions between natural and human systems, with river-road intersections as focal areas of study. Roads can alter the morphology of stream channels, pose barriers to freshwater fauna, provide easy access to streams for humans and non-native species and accelerate the expansion of urban development. 2. We determined what variables control the structure of diadromous fish and shrimp communities and assessed whether particular road crossings altered community structure in north-eastern Puerto Rico. We identified 24 sites that represented a range of river and road sizes across two catchments that drain El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. 3. The location of natural barriers and the size of stream pools were the most important variables for predicting six of fifteen fish and shrimp distributions. Predatory fishes were predicted to be limited to areas in the river network below large, steep waterfalls, whereas adult shrimp Atya lanipes (Atyidae) were predicted to be present above these waterfalls. The fish Awaous banana was predicted to be present in pools >11.6 m wide, whereas the shrimp Xiphocaris elongata was predicted to be present in pools <10.4 m wide. The distributions of nine species were predicted poorly, but three of these species were common and three were rare. 4. Although urban and agricultural land covers were among the top three predictors of five species distributions, they were probably good predictors because they were correlated with the natural gradient. Further study is necessary to disentangle natural and anthropogenic gradients. 5. Road crossings, 10 of which were culverts, were not dispersal barriers for fishes or shrimps. On average, species were present both upstream and downstream from road crossings at 68% of sites where they occurred. Absences upstream or downstream from road crossings occurred at 16% of sites each and likely resulted from a failure to detect species.
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