Main content area

Influences of valley form and land use on large river and floodplain habitats in Puget Sound

Stefankiv, Oleksandr, Beechie, Timothy J., Hall, Jason E., Pess, George R., Timpane‐Padgham, Britta
River research and applications 2019 v.35 no.2 pp. 133-145
aerial photography, aquatic habitat, canyons, floodplains, habitat conservation, humans, land cover, land use, monitoring, rivers, salmon, Puget Sound, Washington (state)
In this paper, we use a system‐wide census of large river and floodplain habitat features to evaluate influences of valley form and land use on salmon habitats along 2,237 km of river in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, USA. We classified the study area by geomorphic process domains to examine differences in natural potential to form floodplain habitats among valley types, and by dominant land cover to examine land use influences on habitat abundance and complexity. We evaluated differences in aquatic habitat among strata in terms of metrics that quantify the length of main channels, side channels, braid channels, and area of wood jams. Among geomorphic process domains, habitat metrics standardized by main channel length were lowest in canyons where there is limited channel migration and less potential to create side channels or braids, and highest in post‐glacial and mountain valleys where island‐braided channels tend to form. Habitat complexity was lower in glacial valleys (generally meandering channels) than in post‐glacial valleys. Habitat abundance and complexity decreased with increasing degree of human influence, with all metrics being highest in areas classified as forested and lowest in areas classified as developed. Using multiple‐year aerial photography, we assessed the ability of our methods to measure habitat changes through time in the Cedar and Elwha Rivers, both of which have recent habitat restoration activity. We were able to parse out sources of habitat improvement or degradation through time, including natural processes, restoration, or development. Our investigation indicates that aerial photography can be an effective and practical method for regional monitoring of status and trends in numerous habitats.