Getting to the Root of Erosion – Dendrogeomorphology as a Streambank Erosion Assessment Tool

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Stephen Norair

Damages associated with erosion and sedimentation processes have negative economic, infrastructural, ecological, and water resource impacts on numerous watersheds throughout the United States. Understanding and assessing these processes is essential to sustainable watershed and infrastructure management. However, traditional direct measurement methods of erosion assessment and monitoring (eg: survey and erosion pins) are both expensive and relatively time consuming; and are often financially impractical or do not provide a decision criterion in a timely manner.

Dendrogeomorphology uses anatomical changes that occur in the annual growth rings of trees located on stream banks after being exposed to the atmosphere to quantify historic erosion. This “hind-casting” of erosion rates allows future erosion to be estimated. This technique can also be combined with other erosion evaluation techniques, such as BEHI, to provide watershed scale erosion assessment studies without the need for long-term monitoring.

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