Spatial patterns and sensitivity of intermittent stream drying to climate variability.
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Spatial patterns and sensitivity of intermittent stream drying to climate variability.

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  • Journal Title:
    Water Resources Research
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  • Description:
    Intermittent streams comprise much of the global river network, and are expected

    to become more prevalent with climate change. Characterizing the expansion and contraction of

    intermittency in stream networks, and understanding how sensitive these dynamics are to climatic

    variability, is critical for predicting the trajectory of hydrologic regimes in a changing climate. Here, we

    consider the spatial patterns of stream intermittency, focusing on wetted channel conditions at the end

    of the dry season, and identify land cover, physiographic, and climate variables that influence surface

    water presence and variability across years. We trained statistical models with wetted channel mapping

    data from 25 streams over 7 years to predict both the spatial and interannual variability of the wetted

    channel network. We then used the models to assess intermittent stream dynamics across the Russian

    River watershed in northern California, USA. We found that an average of 3.7% of the stream network

    was reliably dry, while 16.1% was reliably wet at the end of the dry season, with the remainder of the

    network exhibiting variability in wetted conditions in response to antecedent precipitation. Both climatic

    and landscape characteristics controlled the extent of the wetted network, particularly antecedent

    precipitation at seasonal and annual time scales, highlighting the role of hydrologic memory in this

    system. Given predictions of increased climate volatility, an improved understanding of the spatial

    patterns and stability of dry season conditions in intermittent streams can inform climate risk assessments

    and strategies for protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem services that intermittent streams support.

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    Water Resources Research, 57, e2021WR030314
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