This study explores how the relationship between flow and riparian vegetation varies along a montane river. We mapped occurrence of woody riparian plant communities along 58 km of the San Miguel River in southwestern Colorado. We determined the recurrence interval of inundation for each plant community by combining step-backwater hydraulic modeling at 4 representative reaches with Log-Pearson analysis of 4 stream gaging stations. Finally, we mapped bottomland surficial geology and used a Geographic Information System to overlay the coverages of geology and vegetation. Plant communities were distinctly arrayed along the hydrologic gradient. The Salix exigua Nuttall (sandbar willow) community occurred mostly on surfaces with a recurrence interval of inundation shorter than 2.2 years; the Betula occidentalis Hooker (river birch) community peaked on sites with recurrence intervals of inundation between 2.2 and 4.6 years. The hydrologic position occupied by communities dominated by Populus angustifolia James (narrowleaf cottonwood) was strongly related to age of trees and species composition of understory shrubs. The fraction of riparian vegetation on surfaces historically inundated by the river decreased in the upstream direction from almost 100% near Uravan to
Friedman, Jonathan M.; Auble, Gregor T.; Andrews, Edmund D.; Kittel, Gwen; Madole, Richard F.; Griffin, Eleanor R.; and Allred, Tyler M.
"Transverse and longitudinal variation in woody riparian vegetation along a montane river,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 66:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol66/iss1/7