This page contains an introductory lesson about stream and floodplain
processes and functions. Below are brief summaries with more detailed
information in the links provided.
WHY ARE CATSKILL MOUNTAIN STREAMS IMPORTANT?
Our Catskill streams are more than aesthetic wonders and resources
for recreation. They perform important environmental functions and
services, including providing the lifeblood of countless organisms
– including humans, plants and animals – to draining
floodwaters and moving rock and soil eroded from the mountains to
build fertile valleys. These functions are complex and interrelated.
The stream is a dynamic feature of the landscape, ready to swell
in a heavy rainstorm or shrink to a trickle during a drought. Understanding
these relationships is vital to well-informed living near our streams.
Water in Motion
drain the landscape. When rain falls or snow melts, water
that doesn’t seep into the ground becomes runoff. This runoff
drains into a network of streams, brooks, creeks and rivers. Along
this network, stream channels shape themselves to carry the high
water of spring snow melt. Flows that exceed the stream channel’s
capacity become floods, which can range from minor events to raging
torrents that carve new channels. The floodwater is routed down
the valley across the floodplains, which play an important role
in a watershed’s drainage system. By dissipating the water’s
erosive energy, floodplains help keep stream channels stable and
able to carry regular daily flows.
Streams at Work
shape the land. From small creeks to meandering rivers, streams
are the great sculptors of the Catskill Mountain landscape. Streams
move sediment of all sizes and deposit this load downstream and
across floodplains. Fine sediment like clay can be carried along
for miles in moderate flows, while boulders make their way downstream
only during rare flood events. Streams also process sediment during
transport –– boulders break into cobbles, cobbles
are crushed into gravel, and gravel is ground into sand. By eroding,
transporting, and depositing sediment, Catskill streams perform
the geologic wonder of transforming mountains into fertile valleys.
Source of Life
Water sustains all life. The water flowing in Catskill
streams not only supports wildlife and plants, but it also quenches
the thirst of millions of people who drink it daily. Brook trout
rest in the pools of creeks; stoneflies emerge from their nymph
casings on boulders above the swirling water; a great blue heron
wades the shallow riffle looking for dinner; a deer drinks from
a pool; a child drinks from a New York City fountain. Monitoring
and protecting the quality of this essential substance ensures
that cool, clean water is the precious resource passed on to future
here for Diagram of Mountain Streams – A Living Network
Links and Resources
Click on the links below for more information: