Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference







Geol. Society of America

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land use change, change, channel morphology, Northeastern Puerto Rico

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Last Page



Between 1830 and 1950 much of northeastern Puerto Rico was cleared for agriculture. Runoff increased by 50% and sediment supply to the river channels increased by more than an order of magnitude. Much of the land clearance extended to steep valley slopes, resulting in widespread gullying and landslides and a large load of coarse sediments delivered to the stream channels. A shift from agriculture to industrial and residential land uses over the past 50 yr has maintained the elevated runoff while sediment supply has decreased, allowing the rivers to begin removing coarse sediment stored within their channels. The size, abundance, and stratigraphic elevation of in-channel gravel bar deposits increases, channel depth decreases, and the frequency of overbank flooding increases downstream along these channels. This is presumed to be a transient state and continued transport will lead to degradation of the bed in downstream sections as the channel adjusts to the modern supply of water and sediment. A downstream decrease in channel size is contrary to the expected geometry of self-adjusted channels, but is consistent with the presence of partially evacuated sediment remaining from the earlier agricultural period. Reverse (downstream decreasing) channel morphology is not often cited in the literature, although consistent observations are available from areas with similar land-use history. Identification of reverse channel morphology along individual watercourses may be obscured in multiwatershed compilations in which other factors produce a consistent, but scattered downstream trend. Identification of reverse channel morphology along individual streams in areas with similar land-use history would be useful for identifying channel disequilibrium and anticipating future channel adjustments.