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Environmental Flow Research in the Tennessee River Basin

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Key Findings

More about … Altered streams have a different “hydrologic profile” than other streams

For example, the 20 least-disturbed sites in the Blue Ridge all have greater than 91% forest cover and the middle 50% of streamflow characteristic values for these 20 sites define the reference “hydrologic profile” for the Blue Ridge. Some streamflow characteristics for other sites in Blue Ridge fall within this hydrologic profile, such as Mud Creek (least forested, 43%), whereas other sites, such as Nantahala River (94.3% forested) and Brier Creek (99.9%), do not. The substantial differences of streamflow characteristics for some sites (Nantahala River and Brier Creek) from the reference “hydrologic profile” are because these sites are flow-controlled rivers with upstream dams.

It was surprising that the least forested site (46%), Mud Creek, had streamflow characteristic values that lie within the reference “hydrologic profile” for the Blue Ridge. However, this supports our earlier finding that land use (percent forest or agriculture) was the least influential category when predicting streamflow characteristics. Furthermore, this finding suggests that percent forest cover, while intuitively related to pristine streamflow conditions, does not fundamentally change the hydrologic response of a stream, at least across the range of 40 to 100 percent forest cover. Additional details regarding the development of models of streamflow characteristics and discussion on hydrologic regime can be found in the journal article titled “Modelling ecological flow regime: an example from the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins” published in Ecohydrology and can be downloaded here.

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