We studied how the features of mountain watersheds interact to cause gradients in three stream attributes: baseflow stream widths, total alkalinity, and stream slope. A priori hypotheses were developed before being tested in a series of path analyses using data from 90 stream reaches on 24 second- to fourth-order streams across a fifth-order Rocky Mountain watershed. Because most of the conventional least squares regressions initially calculated for the path analyses had spatially correlated residuals (13 of 15 regressions), spatially explicit regressions were often used to derive more accurate parameter estimates and significance tests. Our final working hypotheses accounted for most of the variation in baseflow stream width (73%), total alkalinity (74%), and stream slope (78%) and provide systemic views of watershed function by depicting interactions that occur between geomorphology, land surface features, and stream attributes. Stream gradients originated mainly from the unidirectional changes in geomorphic features that occur over the lengths of streams. Land surface features were of secondary importance and, because they change less predictably relative to the stream, appear to modify the rate at which stream gradients change.
Additional Publication Details
Production of stream habitat gradients by montane watersheds: Hypothesis tests based on spatially explicit path analyses
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences