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Longitudinal distribution and parameters of large wood in a Mediterranean ephemeral stream

Galia, T., Škarpich, V., Tichavský, R., Vardakas, L., Šilhán, K.
Geomorphology 2018 v.310 pp. 15-28
basins, branches, ephemeral streams, floods, landscapes, mountains, sediments, temperate zones, trees, wood, Crete, Greece
Although large wood (LW) has been intensively studied in forested basins of humid temperate climates, data on LW patterns in different fluvial environments are rather scarce. Therefore, we investigated the dimensions, characteristics, longitudinal distribution, and dynamics of LW along a 4.05-km-long reach of an ephemeral channel typical of European Mediterranean mountainous landscape (Sfakiano Gorge, Crete, Greece). We analysed a total of 795 LW pieces, and the mean observed abundance of LW was generally lower (14.3 m³/ha of active valley floor or 19.6 LW pieces/100 m of stream length) than is usually documented for more humid environments. The number of LW pieces was primarily controlled by trees growing on the valley floor. These living trees acted as important LW supply agents (by tree throws or the supply of individual branches with sufficient LW dimensions) and flow obstructions during large flood events, causing storage of transported LW pieces in jams. However, the downstream transport of LW is probably episodic, and large jams are likely formed only during major floods; after >15 years, we still observed significant imprints of the last major flood event on the present distribution of LW. The geomorphic function of LW in the studied stream can only be perceived to be a spatially limited stabilising element for sediments, which was documented by a few accumulations of coarse clastic material by LW steps and jams.