Damming ephemeral streams in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona, USA: biogeomorphic analysis of riparian area growth

Abeer Hamdan, Mark Schmeeckle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this study, two ephemeral streams are compared in assessing bio-geomorphic change to channels intersected by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal. Water and sediment are fully or partially restricted to move downstream due to the CAP canal, which acts as a dam to these streams. Upstream of traversed channels, vegetation cover has increased over time causing the development of a green-up area. Along the canal, several channels remain longitudinally connected via culvert or overchute to the downstream sections of the stream channels. The two streams examined both had longitudinal connectivity, but only one of the streams had a green-up area upstream. Field work and channel surveys reveal that this is due to the culvert’s peak discharge outflow. The stream with a developed green-up area had a culvert size that is approximately three times less than the discharge of this ephemeral stream causing the partial damming upstream during flow events. Green-up zones slowly enlarge over time as bed levels and adjacent desert surface heights increase from continual sediment deposition upstream causing the floodplain to laterally increase due to overbank flooding. It is estimated that the green-up area for the partially dammed stream will increase by approximately 1570 m2 over the next 36 years. Suggestions for urban and agricultural development are presented in this paper in relation to these dynamic green-up areas. Understanding biogeomorphic processes along dammed ephemeral streams lends valuable insight to riparian conservation efforts and future urban development plans in desert regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number83
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Biogeomorphology
  • CAP canal
  • Dam
  • Ephemeral stream
  • Green-up zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Pollution
  • Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry


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