The West Plains community will remember April 29-30, 2017 for a lifetime. Getting over nine inches of rain in six hours resulted in the biggest flood the town had seen.
Not only did it affect the town, it also affected Mark Twain National Forest and surrounding areas. When a 500-year event like this happens, it affects the soil, animals, vegetation — everything. Several students and faculty wanted to see the effects of the damage and use this data to better predict damage for future floods.
How a flood affects a forest
Their focus is “understanding the connections among lad use, channel form and forset structure that influence river stability and tree damage due to floods,” Dr. Bob Pavlowsky said. Pavlowsky and students are examining relationships in riparian forests adjacent to the river and hypothesizing what factors affect the flood damage the most.
The study area is in the North Fork of the White River basin where they are completing stream channel surveys and taking many samples of standing and downed trees and sediment deposits.
They took initial samples in the summer to be as close to the flood as possible and will take samples again during winter 2018.
Dr. Toby Dogwiler, department head of geology, geography and planning, is using a drone to collect low-altitude photographs of the damaged areas which will be analyzed later to map out and explain flood effects. Dogwiler is a co-principal investigator (PI) on the grant along with two professors from other universities. Pavlowsky is the leader of the team or the PI, responsible for project administration and coordinating reports for the National Science Foundation.
Before the flood, Pavlowsky and students had previously completed field surveys at several sites in June 2016. This information is being used to take a before and after look at the condition of the stream and better understand how floods disturb ecosystems.
This project is anticipated to last a year and yield at least two publications.