Historically, the Kissimmee River Basin consisted of a broad nearly annually inundated riparian wetland similar in character to tropical Southern Hemisphere large rivers. The river was channelized in the 1960s and 1970s, draining the wetland. The river is currently being restored with over 10 000 hectares of wetlands being reconnected to 70 river km of naturalized channel. We monitored riparian wetland sediment dynamics between 2007 and 2010 at 87 sites in the restored reach and 14 sites in an unrestored reference reach. Discharge and sediment transport were measured at the downstream end of the restored reach. There were three flooding events during the study, two as annual flood events and a third as a greater than a 5-year flood event. Restoration has returned periodic flood flow to the riparian wetland and provides a mean sedimentation rate of 11.3 mm per year over the study period in the restored reach compared with 1.7 mm per year in an unrestored channelized reach. Sedimentation from the two annual floods was within the normal range for alluvial Coastal Plain rivers. Sediment deposits consisted of over 20% organics, similar to eastern blackwater rivers. The Kissimmee River is unique in North America for its hybrid alluvial/blackwater nature. Fluvial suspended-sediment measurements for the three flood events indicate that a majority of the sediment (70%) was sand, which is important for natural levee construction. Of the total suspended sediment load for the three flood events, 3%–16% was organic and important in floodplain deposition. Sediment yield is similar to low-gradient rivers draining to the Chesapeake Bay and alluvial rivers of the southeastern USA. Continued monitoring should determine whether observed sediment transport and floodplain deposition rates are normal for this river and determine the relationship between historic vegetation community restoration, hydroperiod restoration, and sedimentation.
Additional publication details
Sediment dynamics in the restored reach of the Kissimmee River Basin, Florida: A vast subtropical riparian wetland