Effects of flow regulation on shallow-water habitat dynamics and floodplain connectivity

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 



Our study examined the effects of flow regulation on the spatiotemporal availability of shallow habitat patches with slow current velocity (SSCV patches) and floodplain inundation in the unregulated Yellowstone River and the regulated Missouri River in Montana and North Dakota. We mapped representative sites and used hydraulic models and hydrograph data to describe the frequency and extent of floodplain inundation and the availability of SSCV habitat over time during different water years. In the Yellowstone River the distribution, location, and size of SSCV patches varied but followed an annual pattern that was tied to the snowmelt runoff hydrograph. There was less variation in patch distribution in the Missouri River, and the pattern of habitat availability was influenced by flow regulation. Regulated flows and their effects on channel morphology and patterns of vegetation establishment resulted in 3.0–3.5 times less area of inundated woody vegetation during normal and dry years in the Missouri River compared with the Yellowstone River. The differences we observed in SSCV patch dynamics between rivers may have implications for fish populations and community structure through affecting the survival of early life stages. At a larger scale, the smaller area of vegetation inundated in the Missouri River suggests that nutrient cycling and the ecological benefits associated with a moving littoral zone are reduced by the altered flow and sediment regime in that river. Accurate assessments of the effects of flow alteration and successful efforts to restore riverine ecosystems will require consideration of physical and biotic processes that operate at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of flow regulation on shallow-water habitat dynamics and floodplain connectivity
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1577/T02-079
Volume 132
Issue 4
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 809
Last page 823