New research by scientists at UC Santa Cruz suggests the steep slopes of West Coast mountains, which slough off lots of sediment, make the region’s rivers unique. The study, published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” Monday, found that the more sediment is fed into a river, the more dynamic a river is. These dynamic rivers shift their channels more often, and resist forming an “armored” river bottom with unmoving gravels.
The results could help engineers and geologists predict the effects of removing dams and restoring streams and to understand what the river’s “natural state” will look like.
“That’s an important thing we can be able to answer,” said UC Santa Cruz doctoral candidate Allison Pfeiffer, who is the lead author of the new study. “For the practical engineering-side purposes ... and in part for predicting salmon habitat.”