RMRS Air, Water, & Aquatic Environments Science Program US Forest Service - RMRS Air, Water, & Aquatic Environments Science Program

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Rocky Mountain Research Station
 RMRS Science Program Areas
 Air, Water and Aquatics Science Program
 Research Subject Areas
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About the Rocky Mountain Research Station

AWAE Program Headquarters
322 East Front St., Ste 401

Boise, ID 83702

(208) 373-4340


Rocky Mountain Research Station Headquarters

2150 Centre Ave., Bldg A
Fort Collins, CO 80526

(970) 295-5923

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Sediment & Erosion: awae research subject areas


Unpaved and native surfaced roads are critical in forest management for recreation, wildlife, and timber production. Forest road erosion accounts for the majority of erosion in forestlands. Road management for these forest areas receives increasing pressures to reduce the amount of erosion that occurs on forest roads to create the lowest impact on the environment and to keep our natural world as picturesque and untouched as possible.

While soil erosion is an inevitable and naturally occurring phenomenon, it is greatly accelerated by human interaction. In the future, this could potentially result in degraded water quality considering that forest watersheds are highly valuable in protecting and improving water. Increased land development / land use change can threaten the quality of water that flows through watersheds in the U.S. (Grace, 2008).


Soil Scientists (profile pages)

bulletDan Neary

bulletSandra Ryan-Burkett



bulletTom Black

bulletJohn Buffington

bulletBill Elliot





bulletCharlie Luce

bulletJim McKean

bulletNatalie Wagenbrenner

Subfields (quick jump)



bulletPost-Fire Sediment





featured Science




Road Impact Image - Geomorphic Road Assessment and Inventory Package (GRAIP)

GRAIP- Quantifying and Prioritizing Road Impacts

The Geomorphic Road Assessment and Inventory Package (GRAIP) is a process and a set of tools for analyzing the impacts of roads on forested watersheds. GRAIP combines a road inventory with a powerful GIS analysis tool set to predict sediment production and delivery, mass wasting risk from gullies and landslides, stream diversion potential, culvert maintenance and fish passage at stream crossings.


GRAIP Science Briefing   |   GRAIP Website


Road Decommissioning: Picking the Right Road



Tools to Model Road Impacts

Tools to Model Road Impacts

Forest roads are a principle source of anthropogenic fine sediment entering streams on Forest Service lands. RMRS has developed a set of tools to manage the environmental impacts of road systems on watersheds.


Science Briefing   | WEPP Website | GRAIP Website



Measuring Water and Sediment Discharge

Measuring Water and Sediment Discharge

Quantifying and prioritizing reduction activities for sediment sources on forest roads is a major concern for managers.


Science Briefing


Fire Enhanced Runoff and Gully Initiation Model

FERGI: Fire Enhanced Runoff and Gully Initiation Model

FERGI estimates the probability of runoff generation amounts and gully initiation positions on hillslopes after fire and after mitigations, such as contour felled logs, are applied. It uses stochastically generated weather time series as inputs to determine the probability of particular outcomes. It reports return intervals for runoff generation rates and totals, how high up the hillslope gullies will initiate, and the changes that might be expected with treatment.


FERGI model website




Post-Fire Sediment






Reducing Post-Fire Runoff and Sediment Yields - Science Briefing


 Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Tools

A considerable investment in post-fire research over the past decade has improved our understanding of the effects of wildfire. Loss of vegetation exposes soil to erosion, runoff may increase and cause flooding, sediments may move downstream and damage houses or fill reservoirs, and put endangered species and community water supplies at risk. Using this new knowledge, the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program has developed several tools to assist land managers with post-wildfire assessment and treatment decisions.


Science Briefing


BAER Tools Webpage



Reducing Post-Fire Runoff and Sediment Yields - Science Briefing

 Reducing Post-Fire Runoff and Sediment Yields

The effectiveness of wheat straw mulch and hydromulch to mitigate post-fire runoff, peak flow rates, and sediment yields from natural rainfall was tested and compared in paired catchments.


Science Briefing



Reducing Post-Fire Hillslope Erosion

Reducing Post-Fire Hillslope Erosion

Mulch treatments (agricultural straw, woods strands, wood shreds, and hydromulch) are frequently recommended as a technique used to mitigate post-fire increases in runoff and erosion rates. Their comparative effectiveness is analyzed to determine the best treatment(s) for a specific location.


Science Briefing



Reducing Post-Fire Hillslope Erosion with Wood Shreds

Reducing Post-Fire Hillslope Erosion with Wood Shreds

Although wood shreds are much heavier, take longer to apply, and are more costly than other mulch treatments (e.g., agricultural straw), the advantages of wood shreds—on- or near-site availability, greater stability in high winds and on steep slopes, and lack of unwanted plant seeds from off-site—make wood shred mulch useful in areas where other mulch treatments may not be desirable.


Science Briefing


Reducing Post-Fire Hillslope Erosion

Wildfire Impacts on Stream Sedimentation

Projected climatic trends, increased frequency of wildfires, and changing hydrology are likely to increase sediment production and yields in mountain basins.


Science Briefing






Monitoring the Effects of the High Park Fire

Monitoring the Effects of the High Park Fire

The High Park fire burned over 350 km2 of forest, demonstrating the powerful and enduring force fire has had, and will continue to have, on National Forest lands.


Science Briefing




Sediment Delivery In A Changing Climate

Sediment Delivery In A Changing Climate

Headwater basins periodically produce massive pulses of sediment to main stem rivers. Understanding how this sediment affects fluvial processes, aquatic habitats, and infrastructure along river corridors is key to allocating limited management resources.


Science Briefing

Sediment Transport and Bedload Data website screen capture

Sediment Transport Website

The Rocky Mountain Research Station collects a variety of sediment transport data in mountain rivers of the western United states.  These data and associated reports are listed by geographic region.


Sediment Transport and Bedload Transport Data


Research Subject Areas




bulletAquatic Ecology

bulletAtmospheric Sciences


bulletClimate Change




Fire & Fuels








Plant Physiology

bulletSediment & Erosion

bulletSpatial Analysis

bulletWater & Watershed Processes





Sediment Transport data

River Bathymetry Toolkit (RBT)


GRAIP Website


BAER Tools Website


WEPP Tools Website





Rocky Mountain Research Station - Air, Water and Aquatic Environments Sciences Program
Last Modified:  Thursday, 03 April 2014 at 18:36:57 CDT

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