Recent studies have demonstrated the geomorphic complexity and wide range of hydrologic regimes found in alpine headwater channels that provide complex habitats for aquatic taxa. These geohydrologic elements are fundamental to better understand patterns in species assemblages and indicator taxa and are necessary to aquatic monitoring protocols that aim to track changes in physical conditions. Complex physical variables shape many biological and ecological traits, including life history strategies, but these mechanisms can only be understood if critical physical variables are adequately represented within the sampling framework. To better align sampling design protocols with current geohydrologic knowledge, we present a conceptual framework that incorporates regional-scale conditions, basin-scale longitudinal profiles, valley-scale glacial macroform structure, valley segment-scale (i.e., colluvial, alluvial, and bedrock), and reach-scale channel types. At the valley segment- and reach-scales, these hierarchical levels are associated with differences in streamflow and sediment regime, water source contribution and water temperature. Examples of linked physical-ecological hypotheses placed in a landscape context and a case study using the proposed framework are presented to demonstrate the usefulness of this approach for monitoring complex temporal and spatial patterns and processes in glaciated basins. This approach is meant to aid in comparisons between mountain regions on a global scale and to improve management of potentially endangered alpine species affected by climate change and other stressors.
Additional publication details
A process-based hierarchical framework for monitoring glaciated alpine headwaters