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Effects of watershed land use and geomorphology on stream low flows during severe drought conditions in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia and North Carolina
PRICE, KATIE, C. Jackson, A. Parker, AND MIKE CYTERSKI. Effects of watershed land use and geomorphology on stream low flows during severe drought conditions in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia and North Carolina. Presented at The Geological Society of America Southeastern Section 2012 Annual Meeting, Asheville, NC, April 01 - 02, 2012.
Presentation for Geological Society of America, Southeastern Section Annual Meeting, April 1 - 2 2012, Asheville, NC
Watershed land use and topographic variability influence stream low flows, yet their interactions and relative influence remain unresolved. Our objective was to assess the relative influences of land use and watershed geomorphic characteristics on low flow variability in the sourthern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia. Ten-minute interval discharge data for 35 streams (in watersheds from 3 to 146 km²) were measured for two late summer low flow seasons, coinciding with a severe drought period in the southeastern United States. Three low flow metrics were calculated (1-day and 7-day minimum flows, and 1-percentile flow) for each low flow season (August 5 - November 12, 2007 and August 1 - November 12, 2008). A comprehensive suite of watershed characteristics, including factors of topography, channel network morphometry, soils, land use, and precipitation were used in multiple regression analysis of low flow variability among the 35 watersheds. Additionally, low flows in groups of lower - and higher-forest cover watersheds were compared. Drainage density, areal coverage of colluvium, topographic variability (as slope standard deviation), and percent of the channel network as first order stream emerged as teh most important variables for explaining low flow variability. Watershed forest cover demonstrated a consistent, significant positive relationshipo with low flows, despite the higher evapotranspiration rates associated with forest compared with other land covers, and despite the relatively small range of distrubance in this study area. This highlights the importance of infiltration and recharge under undisturbed land cover in sustaining low flows, and bears noteworthy implications for enviornmental flows and water resource sustainability.