Evaluating the restoration potential of black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) from multiple scales of observation, Grande Ronde River Basin, Oregon, USA Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/db78tf66v

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  • As a key factor contributing to slope stability, in-stream habitat for aquatic species (e.g., salmonids), nutrient cycling, and corridors for upland species, riparian vegetation and its maintenance is of critical conservation importance. Subsequently, the chronic degradation of aquatic and riparian ecosystems in the semi-arid and arid landscapes of the western U.S. is the focus of many recent research efforts. A study was undertaken to investigate historic and current black cottonwood populations in the Grande Ronde River Basin, northeastern Oregon, U.S.A., and evaluate restoration potential given present-day fluvial-geomorphic conditions and reproductive strategies. Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), a dominant tree species in these semi-arid systems, has been severely impacted by intensive grazing, irrigation, and land conversion activities over the past one and a half centuries. With the explicit incorporation of space and time, a simple conceptual framework was developed to examine the ecological restoration potential of black cottonwood from ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Restoration potential is defined in this study in terms of availability of suitable habitat and source (i.e., seedpool) for future generations. Digital analyses of aerial photographs reveal changes in the extent, numbers, and total area of cottonwood communities and habitat since 1937. Restoration potential is evaluated using historic stream flow records, stream cross-section analysis to predict current stream discharge, and DNA RAPD procedures to assess the effects of changing stream geomorphology and disturbance regimes on cottonwood reproductive strategies. Optimal spatial and temporal conditions for potential restoration locations of black cottonwood have been identified relative to channel morphology and flood events (e.g., frequency and magnitude). This multiple scale mechnistic approach is used to evaluate the feasibility of restoration efforts toward the re-establishment of viable black cottonwood riparian plant communities in two sites in the upper Grande Ronde River Basin.
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