High resolution spatiotemporal patterns of flow at the landscape scale in montane non‐perennial streams

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Sabathier, R., Singer, M., Stella, J., Roberts, D., Caylor, K.K., Jaeger, K., & Olden, J. (2022). High resolution spatiotemporal patterns of flow at the landscape scale in montane non‐perennial streams. Rivers Research and Applications: an international journal devoted to river research and management, doi:10.1002/rra.4076.

Abstract: Intermittent and ephemeral streams in dryland environments support diverse assemblages of aquatic and terrestrial life. Understanding when and where water flows provide insights into the availability of water, its response to external controlling factors, and potential sensitivity to climate change and a host of human activities. Knowledge regarding the timing of drying/wetting cycles can also be useful to map critical habitats for species and ecosystems that rely on these temporary water sources. However, identifying the locations and monitoring the timing of streamflow and channel sediment moisture remains a challenging endeavor. In this paper, we analyzed daily conductivity from 37 sensors distributed along 10 streams across an arid mountain front in Arizona (United States) to assess spatiotemporal patterns in flow permanence, defined as the timing and extent of water in streams. Conductivity sensors provide information on surface flow and sediment moisture, supporting a stream classification based on seasonal flow dynamics. Our results provide insight into flow responses to seasonal rainfall, highlighting stream reaches very reactive to rainfall versus those demonstrating more stable streamflow. The strength of stream responses to precipitation are explored in the context of surficial geology. In summary, conductivity data can be used to map potential stream habitat for water‐dependent species in both space and time, while also providing the basis upon which sensitivity to ongoing climate change can be evaluated.

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