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Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (BS)
Department of Geology and Environmental Science
L. Scott Eaton
Streams are one of the major driving forces that shape the landscapes in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the eastern United States as a whole, and they serve an important role in transporting both water and sediment to the Atlantic Ocean. However, streams are often modified for human use, thus altering their natural equilibrium. These alterations have frequently led to the degradation of channel stability as well as damage to property and infrastructure. A better understanding of how both grain size (D50) and vegetation impact stream sinuosity (S) is needed to analyze the prevalence of channel degradation in this context. In this study, conducted from August 2018 – February 2019, five relatively undisturbed stream channels were analyzed in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia. Stream width, depth, and bedload (D50), as well as vegetation type and density, were analyzed using field measurements. Google Earth was used to analyze stream channel sinuosity, gradient, and catchment area size. A positive relationship was found between 1) channel width and basin area, 2) sinuosity and basin area, 3) D50 and stream gradient, and 4) D50 and stream channel W/D ratio; findings which align with prior research. However, a positive relationship was also found between D50 and catchment basin area, and between D50 and sinuosity, trends that run contrary to prior work. T. canadensis, L. tulipifera, B. lenta, and Quercus spp. were the most common adult tree species found among the stream sites, and it was found that there was a strong positive correlation between streamside vegetation density and stream sinuosity, suggesting that streamside vegetation serves as a stabilizing agent allowing streams to develop equilibrated meanders. Thus, streamside vegetation was found to be a critical part of stream stability, and its presence should be a consideration taken whenever analyzing channel degradation in this context.
Colip, Grant, "Grain size and vegetation as controlling variables of stream channel morphology" (2019). Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current. 658.