Influence of stream flow regime and temperature on growth rate of the riparian tree, Platanus wrightii, in Arizona

Juliet Stromberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


1. The growth of riparian trees in semi-arid regions is influenced by stream flow regime, but the relative importance of base flow and seasonal floods on growth has not been explored. I examined abiotic influences on the growth of Platanus wrightii in four stream reaches in Arizona. All reaches had a bimodal pattern of discharge, but only two had continuous flow throughout the growing season. 2. In two reaches of Sycamore Creek without perennial flow, a large percentage of the annual variation in radial growth rate of P. wrightii was explained by annual and growing season flow rate. Growth was related to these same variables in a perennial reach of Sycamore Creek, but trees maintained higher growth during drought years than they did in the temporary reaches. At Oak Creek, a larger perennial stream, P. wrightii growth showed a bell-shaped relationship with flow. These data suggest that growth rate is frequently limited by water availability at Sycamore Creek, but not at Oak Creek. 3. At both rivers, much of the annual surface flow occurs as winter floods. Oak Creek, however, maintains a high summer base flow even during years with no floods. Platanus wrightii growth was significantly related to winter flood frequency only at Sycamore Creek. The positive relationship of growth with stream flow and winter flood frequency at Sycamore Creek presumably occurs because the P. wrightii trees are dependent on the winter flows to recharge the shallow alluvial aquifer and to raise the level of ground water within the root zone. 4. Frequent summer floods increased the growth of trees in perennial and non-perennial reaches alike. At perennial Oak Creek, summer flood frequency was the only variable linearly related to growth of P. wrightii. Summer flood frequency was a significant, but secondary, component of multiple-regression growth models for trees in the perennial and non-perennial reaches of Sycamore Creek. Summer floods may stimulate growth, in part, by replenishing limiting nutrients. 5. High temperature was negatively associated with the growth of P. wrightii at Sycamore Creek. The combination of drought and high temperature resulted in very low growth rate. 6. These results have implications for the management of flood and base flow regimes on regulated, diverted and pumped rivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Flood frequency
  • Flood season
  • Platanus wrightii
  • Radial growth
  • Semi-arid riparian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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