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Process domains as a unifying concept to characterize geohydrological linkages in glaciated mountain headwaters

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Author(s): Anne A. Weekes

Document Type: PhD dissertation
Publisher: University of Washington College of Forest Resources
Published Year: 2009
Pages: 155
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This dissertation presents the results from multi-year study on spatial and temporal geohydrologic habitat controls in glaciated mountain landscapes and explores the implications of these controls on ecological monitoring. Geomorphic field work in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State in conjunction with hydrologic indices (e.g., streamflow gauging, stable isotope analysis and water temperature measurements) and continuous spatial data were used to investigate the relationship between glacial macroforms, disturbance processes, and hydrologic response. The linkage between valley-scale geomorphic structures and hydrologic response was found to be best expressed in process domains defined as colluvial, alluvial, and bedrock systems (Montgomery, 1999). Study results show a correlation between process domains within a headwater catchment and the characteristic hydrologic regime and streamflow of the basin. Consequently, they provide a framework useful to ecological monitoring programs that aim to compare physical habitat as a control of biotic response.

Decades of studies and conceptual models in hydrology, geomorphology and ecology have provided context for all aspects of this dissertation, from the field study sampling design to the conclusions. However, comparatively little work has been done in glaciated mountain headwaters. Earlier research in plot-scale hillslope and catchment hydrology (e.g. Dunne, 1978), fluvial geomorphology (Montgomery and Buffington, 1997) and ecological work on riverine scales and scaling (Frissell, et al., 1986; Baxter and Hauer, 2000; Torgersen, 2002) are central to understanding physical habitat in complex systems. The Process Domain Concept (Montgomery, 1999) and the results of recently published studies of the meso-scale spatial structures found in glaciated mountain basins in British Columbia (Brardinoni and Hassan, 2006) provide the conceptual basis for this dissertation.

The results of this investigation strongly support the insight that meso-scale geomorphic processes and structures are first order drivers of hydrologic regimes. To develop a prototype for monitoring physical habitat in glaciated mountain headwaters, I investigate and compare the implications of results of this research in conjunction with the assumptions inherent in popular aquatic monitoring protocols. This prototype is explored using the National Park Service (NPS) North Coast and Cascade Network (NCCN) monitoring program as a case study.

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In Text Citation:
Weekes (2009) or (Weekes, 2009)

References Citation:
Weekes, A.A., 2009, Process domains as a unifying concept to characterize geohydrological linkages in glaciated mountain headwaters: PhD dissertation, University of Washington College of Forest Resources, 155 p..