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WWRC 86-05t
Reversing Desertification of Riparian Zones Along Cold Desert Streams


Instream flow structures (trash collectors), willow and beaver are being used to reclaim riparian habitat along a degraded cold desert stream in Wyoming. It is hypothesized that trash collectors will decrease stream flow velocity thus causing sediment to be deposited bank first and as channel bed material. Willow (Salix sp.) growing and planted along banks will be used to stabilize new channel bank deposition by roots. Willows will further reduce stream flow velocity and cause additional entrapment of sediment during flood runoff events. As a narrow channel, raised bottom and willow habitat develops more frequent overbank flooding should occur and cause conditions favorable for increasing new riparian zone habitat. Willow will provide structural materials for beaver dams thus replacing the need for installing trash collectors. Sixteen sets of three or four trash collectors have been installed during 1984-85 along 7 km of stream on straight reaches between meanders. Second year growth sprigs, pole plants, and containerized willow stock have been planted on degraded stream channel reaches to test survivability and root development. A surface and groundwater monitoring system is nearly complete to measure change in the riparian zone water balance. Preliminary results show (1) trash collectors slow stream velocity and increase channel bed material, (2) ninety percent of planted willows survived during their first summer growing season, and (3) beaver are using trash collectors as support for dams.

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