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Geosciences 2018, 8(8), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8080304

Fluvial Geomorphology, Root Distribution, and Tensile Strength of the Invasive Giant Reed, Arundo Donax and Its Role on Stream Bank Stability in the Santa Clara River, Southern California

1
Upward Bound Math–Science, Lyon College, Batesville, AR 72501, USA
2
Department of Earth Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
3
Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
4
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Sedimentation Laboratory, Oxford, MS 38655, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 June 2018 / Revised: 1 August 2018 / Accepted: 7 August 2018 / Published: 14 August 2018
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Abstract

Arundo donax (giant reed) is a large, perennial grass that invades semi-arid riparian systems where it competes with native vegetation and modifies channel geomorphology. For the Santa Clara River, CA, changes in channel width and intensity of braiding over several decades are linked in part to high flow events that remove A. donax. Nevertheless, the area of A. donax at the two study sites increased fivefold over a period of 28 years at one site and fourfold over 15 years at the second site. Effects of A. donax on bank stability are compared to those of a common native riparian tree—Salix laevigata (red willow)—at two sites on the banks and floodplain of the Santa Clara River. There is a significant difference of root density of A. donax compared to S. laevigata and the latter has a higher number of roots per unit area at nearly all depths of the soil profile. Tensile root strength for S. laevigata (for roots of 1–6 mm in diameter) is about five times stronger than for A. donax and adds twice the apparent cohesion to weakly cohesive bank materials than does A. donax (8.6 kPa compared to 3.3 kPa, respectively). Modeling of bank stability for banks of variable height suggests that S. laevigata, as compared to A. donax, increases the factor of safety (FS) by ~60% for banks 1 m high, ~55% for banks 2 m high and ~40% for banks 3 m high. For 3 m high banks, the FS for banks with A. donax is <1. This has geomorphic significance because, in the case of A. donax growing near the water line of alluvial banks, the upper 10–20 cm has a hard, resistant near-surface layer overlying more erodible banks just below the near-surface rhizomal layer. Such banks may be easily undercut during high flow events, resulting in overhanging blocks of soil and A. donax that slump and collapse into the active channel, facilitating lateral bank erosion. Therefore, there is a decrease in the lateral stability of channels if the mixed riparian forest is converted to dominance by A. donax. View Full-Text
Keywords: Arundo donax; tensile root strength; root area ratio; bank stability; fluvial processes; Santa Clara River; Southern California Arundo donax; tensile root strength; root area ratio; bank stability; fluvial processes; Santa Clara River; Southern California
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Stover, J.E.; Keller, E.A.; Dudley, T.L.; Langendoen, E.J. Fluvial Geomorphology, Root Distribution, and Tensile Strength of the Invasive Giant Reed, Arundo Donax and Its Role on Stream Bank Stability in the Santa Clara River, Southern California. Geosciences 2018, 8, 304.

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