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May 27, JPEG. Across the continental United States, river gauges at locations were above flood stage on May 29, with the vast majority along the Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas rivers and their tributaries. The problem was most acute in late May along the Arkansas River. As of May 29, the National Weather Service reported flooding at 22 gauges along the river in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, not including nearby tributaries and lakes.

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Major flooding was observed at 13 of those gauges. News media and forecasters predicted flooding in every major community along the river in the coming days. Every county in Oklahoma was in a state of emergency, and evacuations were ordered or recommended in several communities in Arkansas. The combination of near-infrared and visible light MODIS bands makes it easier to see rivers out of their banks and water spread across flood plains.

Water is blue; vegetation is green; clouds are bright blue or white; and bare flood plains along the river are tan image. For comparison, the same area is shown in May The false-color images use OLI bands , in which flood waters appear blue, vegetation is green, and bare ground is brown. The image pair above focuses on the Arkansas River south of Tulsa, around the suburban town of Bixby.

The pair below shows flooding on the northeast side of the city, along the Caney and Verdigris rivers, which flow into the Arkansas. May 9, JPEG. Many stream sources lie above the treeline, have reduced organic matter input, and differ from the predictions of the river continuum concept.


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Anthropogenic influences frequently increase particulate matter loading to streams, increasing filtering collector component of benthic communities. Local stream conditions vary substantially depending on gradient, stream size, and location along a stream continuum. Steep mountain streams cascade over large pieces of rocky substrate with almost constantly turbulent flow. When a steep stream is confined by valley walls, a series of pools separated by near-vertical steps can form.

These step pools repeat at a frequency of approximately one to four channel widths. Generalized model of stream gradient and associated river-bed forms from steep mountain streams through low-gradient rivers. In low to moderate-gradient streams with loose rocky substrates, cobbles and boulders are mobilized during high-flow events and deposited across the width of river channels forming high-gradient riffles Figure 4.

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Riffles are separated by pools , forming riffle-pool sequences recurring about three to five times the width of the river Hynes ; Montgomery and Buffington During typical base-flow conditions, riffles are erosional habitats with fewer deposited fine particles between substrates. Particulate deposition increases as water velocity slows in pools. Riffle macroinvertebrate communities are typically more diverse than communities in pools.

The pattern in fish communities is reversed, with pool fish communities tending to be more diverse than those in riffles Figure 5; Gelwick , Langeani et al. Habitat diversity in streams illustrated from large to micro scale. Species are represented, left to right, from most abundant to least.

Pool communities have more species 31 spp than riffles 18 spp , and are more even, as indicated by the lower slope of the pool plot. In low gradient flood plains, unconstrained rivers form meanders that shift and move as bed materials are eroded and redeposited. Dramatic changes can occur rapidly during flood events.


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  5. Map of the floodplain of a large low-gradient river in Italy showing the braided channel, deposited gravel, and vegetated islands. Many, if not most, large rivers have been channelized and contained, such that the natural state shown in this diagram is no longer the norm. Streams exchange water, nutrients, and organisms with surrounding aquifers. The interstitial, water-filled space beneath river beds, where most active aquifer-river water exchange occurs, is termed the hyporheic zone , and is an important habitat for a number of aquatic organisms Figure 7; Gibert et al.

    This zone is biologically active, and can function as a refuge for organisms during high-water events. Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Gradients in physical characteristics, including flow, depth, substrate characteristics, and light penetration, exist across river channels. These physical differences within a river result in a diverse range of potential niches for aquatic organisms.

    Because of the heterogeneous nature of riverbeds, the distributions of fish, invertebrates, and algae, tend to form a patchy mosaic that shifts and responds dynamically to high-water events Townsend One result of this patchiness is that samples of river organisms are notoriously variable. Organisms distribute themselves at even smaller spatial scales than those described above. The size and texture of river substrates influence invertebrate abundance and species richness Downes et al. Invertebrate communities respond to different combinations of velocity, depth, and substrate roughness Brooks et al.

    As is true in other habitats, the distributions of river organisms are additionally influenced by biological interactions. Rivers exchange water, materials, energy, and nutrients, in a reciprocal manner with the surrounding environment.

    Flooding Along the Arkansas River

    River water quality, sediment characteristics, and biological communities, all reflect characteristics of the upstream, and even the downstream environment. Conversely, local environments are thermally influenced, sculpted, watered, and nutritionally supplemented, by rivers and streams. Soil deposition by rivers onto their floodplains has influenced the course of human agriculture, and the distributions of human populations since antiquity. River influence is strongest on the immediately-adjacent habitat called the riparian zone.

    Biological communities in riparian zones are unique, and distinct from those beyond the immediate influence of rivers. In some biomes such as deserts and grasslands, river corridors are the most vegetated habitats that exist, and provide essential habitat for a range of organisms. Riparian woods serve as important wildlife migration corridors linking fragmented forests Lees and Peres Fish carcasses increased insect abundance eight-fold in one experiment Wipfli et al.

    Larval aquatic insects spend weeks, more typically a year, or even longer, in streams before adult emergence. The synchronous insect emergences sought by trout anglers, and indeed by trout, are sometimes large enough to be detected by regional weather radar Figure 8 , and provide vital nutrition for fish, terrestrial invertebrates, birds, and mammals. The adult mayflies in flight are represented by the bright pink, purple, and white. Tree limbs that fall into streams and rivers increase habitat heterogeneity. Woody debris can stabilize river beds, modify erosion and deposition, create essential fish habitat, and help form pools that retain organic matter, extending the availability of seasonal food resources.

    Stormwater runoff from surrounding landscapes carries particles into streams. The particles include soil as well as plant and animal detritus. Organic particles in the runoff contribute to the food base in stream and river ecosystems. Heavy rainfall and snowmelt can greatly magnify the volume of stream water in a relatively short period of time.

    Rapidly flowing water can carry large quantities of sand and gravel, effectively sand-blasting surfaces, and removing the periphyton layer. It is not unusual to see macroinvertebrate abundances reduced by half, or more, following such high-water events. Reviewers of the river literature have generally concluded that disturbance is of greater importance than species interactions in streams Lake , Resh et al. This conclusion does not imply that community interactions are unimportant, and well-studied examples abound in the scientific literature, but the impacts of disturbance are generally considered to be of greater magnitude.

    Importantly, river organisms have evolved with a context of natural disturbance, and communities persist in spite of it. Our influences on river systems alter the nature of rivers and affect all of the processes described above. It is important to note that, because river systems are well studied, environmental engineers have a sound, scientific basis for designing river restoration projects. The general frameworks described above, along with others beyond the scope of this article, provide scientific benchmarks against which to measure the success of restoration efforts.

    Alluvial : Referring to loose inorganic substrates such as sand, gravel, and boulders eroded, transported, and deposited and often sorted by the action of water. Anadromous : Fish spending most of their life cycle in salt water and migrating to freshwater to reproduce. Aquifer : Underground water that exists in the interstitial space between substrate particles or porous rock.

    Benthos : The community of organisms inhabiting the solid floor, or benthic zone of any water body. Biomes : Large biogeographical regions characterized by a particular community type. They are broadly defined by climatic variables including temperature and precipitation. Examples include desert, rain forest, and tundra. Catchment : The area that drains to a single stream or river.

    Frequently referred to as a river basin. Synonymous with watershed in North American usage. Collectors : A macroinvertebrate functional feeding group using small organic particles as a primary food source. Filtering collectors accumulate this material from the water column. Gathering collectors accumulate this material from the benthic zone.


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    Discharge : The quantity of water passing a certain river or stream location per unit time. Expressed as units of volume per unit time e. Feeding guilds : Organisms categorized by their feeding mode. Examples include nectar feeders, and parasites. See functional feeding groups. Functional feeding groups : Feeding guilds of aquatic macroinvertebrates. These include grazers commonly called scrapers , shredders, collectors, and predators. Grazers : Also called scrapers, a macroinvertebrate functional feeding group that consumes attached periphyton as its primary food source Hyporheic zone : A zone of saturated substrate beneath and spreading laterally from a river bed.

    It is the zone of active water and organism exchange between the river water and ground water. Lentic : Referring to standing-water habitats including lakes, ponds, and swamps contrast with lotic. Lotic : Referring to flowing-water habitats including rivers, springs, and streams contrast with lentic. Periphyton : The community of primary producers and heterotrophic microorganisms attached to submerged surfaces. In streams this would include algae, cyanobacteria, bacteria, and fungi and their associated extra-cellular secretions.

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    Periphyton serves as the food base utilized by grazers. Pool : An area of low gradient water in a stream. See also riffle. Hidden categories: Articles lacking sources from November All articles lacking sources Articles containing Chinese-language text. Namespaces Article Talk.