Traditionally, stream channel planform has been viewed as a function of larger watershed and valley-scale physical variables, including valley slope, the amount of discharge, and sediment size and load. Biotic processes serve a crucial role in transforming channel planform among straight, braided, meandering, and anabranching styles by increasing stream-bank stability and the probability of avulsions, creating stable multithread (anabranching) channels, and affecting sedimentation dynamics. We review the role of riparian vegetation and channel-spanning obstructions—beaver dams and logjams—in altering channel-floodplain dynamics in the southern Rocky Mountains, and we present channel planform scenarios for combinations of vegetation and beaver populations or old-growth forest that control logjam formation. These conceptual models provide understanding of historical planform variability throughout the Holocene and outline the implications for stream restoration or management in broad, low-gradient headwater valleys, which are important for storing sediment, carbon, and nutrients and for supporting a diverse riparian community.
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Vol. 63 • No. 6