|Influence of watershed grazing management on stream geomorphology in grassland headwater streams
|Year of Publication
|Kansas State University
|agriculture, ecology, Fluvial, Geomorphology, Landuse, Sediment
This dissertation increases our understanding of the drivers that shape and maintain grassland streams and their watersheds by examining the influence of grazing management practices on suspended sediment concentrations, bare ground production, and changes to channel geomorphology. Chapter 2 demonstrates that cattle grazing produces significantly higher baseflow suspended sediment concentrations relative to bison grazing. Suspended sediment concentrations within bison-grazed streams are similar to ungrazed streams, indicating that the substitution of cattle for bison has resulted in degradation of baseflow water quality in grassland streams. Burning frequency, discharge, and seasonality are also significant drivers of suspended sediment concentrations, but are generally less influential than grazing treatments. Chapter 3 indicates that high density cattle grazing treatments produce more bare ground within the riparian zones of grassland stream networks, particularly underneath tree canopy cover. The increased bare ground coverage within riparian areas is correlated with increased suspended sediment concentrations during baseflow conditions, while watershed-scale bare ground production is correlated with increased suspended sediment concentrations during storm flow events. Chapter 4 demonstrates channel geometry and sedimentology are significantly influenced by grazing treatments. This dissertation is the first study to comparatively evaluate the relative influence between cattle and bison grazing on stream geomorphology within any environment. Insight gained from this project can be used by public and private land use managers to improve the environmental integrity of native grassland ecosystems.