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Environmental Flow Research in the Tennessee River Basin

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Key Findings

More about … Climate and basin factors can be used to predict ecologically-relevant aspects of streamflow

Streamflow characteristics are numerical values that describe the characteristic temporal pattern of low, high and average flows within a stream. Streamflow characteristics can be grouped in functional categories such as the magnitude, frequency, duration, timing, and rate-of-change in flow. Our statistical model is comprised of 19 separate equations, each predicting one of the 19 ecologically-relevant streamflow characteristics identified in earlier work. Basin characteristics used for in the models can be subdivided into the four following categories:

Climate—these include monthly mean precipitation, difference in January precipitation compared to average monthly precipitation, daily temperature range, and difference in minimum and maximum August temperatures compared to the year. Daily temperature range occurred in the most equations, 17 out of 19.

Land use—includes percent forest and percent agriculture. Even though percent urban isn't included as a variable, this information is still incorporated into the model structure. Percent agriculture turned out to be 1.5 to 2 times more important than percent forest.

Physical Properties—describe physical aspects of the watershed such as ability to generate runoff, mean elevation, percentage of permeable soil and depth to bedrock.  Mean elevation was very important in 11 equations.

Regional Physiography—include the number of days in a streamflow recession (connectivity to baseflow or groundwater discharge) and the percent of the watershed that within the Blue Ridge or Interior Plateau level III ecoregions. Regional factors were used in 17 of the 19 equations and were very influential in most equations.

Graph showing streamflow characteristics

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