Quantifying the Development and Dynamics of Reservoir Delta and Related Backwater Vegetation in the Context of Physical Drivers
The goal of this project is to better to determine whether deltas and backwaters represent significant areas of riparian and wetland habitat on a landscape scale, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Further, we hypothesize that early successional woody riparian species, which are declining along many regulated river reaches below dams, will be comparatively abundant where reservoirs experience large fluctuations in pool elevations. Understanding the drivers of delta-backwater vegetation can facilitate a predictive understanding of these habitats in response to, for example, changes in water management or in hydrology upstream from reservoirs.
Need and Benefit
Reservoir delta and backwater habitats are forming in thousands of reservoirs worldwide and represent dynamic new landscape features. Reclamation has collected an important storehouse of data on these important habitats, but to date this information has generally not been synthesized and presented to a wider audience. Recent work in the US and Europe suggest that reservoir delta-backwater ecosystems may compensate for some of the ecological processes and related biological diversity that are being lost along regulated river reaches below dams. Given the dearth of publicly available information on these reservoir-influenced ecosystems, this project seeks to synthesize and integrate existing information at six Reclamation facilities in order to forge a better understanding of how current and future reservoir operations influence the creation and subsequent dynamics of delta-backwater habitats.
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