Field surveys document the accumulation of large woody debris (LWD) into structurally distinctive jam types in the alluvial channel of the Queets River on the Olympic Peninsula of north west Washington. Calculations, field observations and historical evidence show that these jams can form stable structures controlling local channel hydraulics and providing refugia for riparian forest development over decades and possibly centuries. Distinctive spatial patterns of LWD, pools, bars and forested islands form in association with particular jam types. The deposition of 'key member' logs initiates the formation of stable bar apex and meander jams that alter the local flow hydraulics and thereby the spatial characteristics of scour and deposition leading to pool and bar formation. Historical evidence and the age structure of forest patches documents the temporal development of alluvial topography associated with these jam types. Bar apex jams, for example, are associated with a crescentic pool, an upstream arcuate bar and a downstream central bar that is the focus of forest patch development. Experimental and empirical studies in hydraulic engineering accurately predict channel scour associated with jams. Individual jams can be remarkably stable, providing long-term bank protection that creates local refugia for mature forest patches within a valley floor environment characterized by rapid channel migration and frequent disturbance. Processes controlling the formation, structure and stability of naturally occurring LWD jams are fundamental to the dynamics of forested river ecosystems and provide insights into the design of both habitat restoration structures and ecosystem-based watershed management.
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