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, 186 (7), 4309-22

Soil Disturbance/Restoration Effects on Stream Sediment Loading in the Tahoe Basin--detection Monitoring


Soil Disturbance/Restoration Effects on Stream Sediment Loading in the Tahoe Basin--detection Monitoring

M E Grismer. Environ Monit Assess.


Quantifying the relative impacts of soil restoration or disturbance on watershed daily sediment and nutrients loads is essential towards assessing the actual costs/benefits of the land management. Such quantification requires stream monitoring programs capable of detecting changes in land-use or soil functional and erosive area "connectivity" conditions across the watershed. Previously, use of a local-scale, field-data based runoff and erosion model for three Lake Tahoe west-shore watersheds as a detection monitoring "proof of concept" suggested that analyses of midrange average daily flows can reveal sediment load reductions of relatively small watershed fractional areas (∼5 %) of restored soil function within a few years of treatment. Developing such an effective stream monitoring program is considered for tributaries on the west shore of the Lake Tahoe Basin using continuous (15-min) stream monitoring information from Ward (2,521 ha), Blackwood (2,886 ha), and the Homewood (260 ha, HMR) Creek watersheds. The continuous total suspended sediment (TSS) and discharge monitoring confirmed the hysteretic TSS concentration-flowrate relationship associated with the daily and seasonal spring snowmelt hydrographs at all three creeks. Using the complete dataset, daily loads estimated from 1-h sampling periods during the day indicated that the optimal sampling hours were in the afternoon during the rising limb of the spring snowmelt hydrograph, an observation likely to apply across the Sierra Nevada and other snowmelt driven watersheds. Measured rising limb sediment loads were used to determine if soils restoration efforts (e.g., dirt road removal, ski run rehabilitation) at the HMR creek watershed reduced sediment loads between 2010 and 2011. A nearly 1.5-fold decrease in sediment yields (kg/ha per m(3)/s flow) was found suggesting that this focused monitoring approach may be useful towards development of TMDL "crediting" tools. Further monitoring is needed to verify these observations and confirm the value of this approach.

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    1. Environ Monit Assess. 2014 Jul;186(7):4309-22 - PubMed

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