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Sediment transport through mountain rivers forms and maintains aquatic habitat (through physical processes such as erosion, bank undercutting, sandbar formation, aggradation, gullying, and plugging) and has important implications for water resource infrastructure. However, sediment transport cannot be understood without also considering the hydrology and geomorphology of an aquatic ecosystem. Research explores: 1) how sediment yields are likely to respond to climate change and wildﬁre; 2) the potential consequences for aquatic habitat and water resource infrastructure; and 3) prospects for mitigating sediment yields in forest basins. In the Rocky Mountains, sediment yield is expected to increase in a warming climate primarily through climate-driven changes in temperature and hydrology that promote vegetation disturbances (i.e., wildﬁre, insect/pathogen outbreak, drought-related die off).
Rocky Mountain Research Station hosts a variety of sediment transport data collected in mountain rivers of the western United States. Research conducted by RMRS scientists has synthesized existing data from Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming. This research highlights the importance of sediment transport relationships and the necessity of sediment transport when considering restoration techniques for both watershed and river restoration. Sediment transport data and site characteristics are summarized in source data (Excel spreadsheet) and are listed below by geographic region: