Establishment of woody riparian vegetation in relation to annual patterns of streamflow, Bill Williams River, Arizona

Patrick B. Shafroth, Gregor T. Auble, Juliet Stromberg, Duncan T. Patten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Previous studies have revealed the close coupling of components of annual streamflow hydrographs and the germination and establishment of Populus species. Key hydrograph components include the timing and magnitude of flood peaks, the rate of decline of the recession limb, and the magnitude of base flows. In this paper, we retrospectively examine establishment of four woody riparian species along the Bill Williams River, Arizona, USA, in the context of annual patterns of streamflow for the years 1993-1995. The four species examined were the native Populus fremontii, Salix gooddingii, and Baccharis salicifolia and the exotic Tamarix ramosissima. We modeled locations suitable for germination of each species along eight study transects by combining historic discharge data, calculated stage-discharge relationships, and seed-dispersal timing observations. This germination model was a highly significant predictor of seedling establishment. Where germination was predicted to occur, we compared values of several environmental variables in quadrats where we observed successful establishment with quadrats where establishment was unsuccessful. The basal area of mature woody vegetation, the maximum annual depth to ground water, and the maximum rate of water-table decline were the variables that best discriminated between quadrats with and without seedlings. The results of this study suggest that the basic components of models that relate establishment of Populus spp. to annual patterns of streamflow may also be applicable to other woody riparian species. Reach-to-reach variation in stage-discharge relationships can influence model parameters, however, and should be considered if results such as ours are to be used in efforts to prescribe reservoir releases to promote establishment of native riparian vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-590
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Arizona
  • Baccharis
  • Populus
  • Salix
  • Seedling establishment
  • Streamflow
  • Tamarix
  • Water table

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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