Dynamics of large wood during a flash flood in two mountain catchments
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Understanding and modelling the dynamics of large wood (LW) in rivers during flood events has spurred a great deal of research in recent years. However, few studies have documented the effect of high-magnitude flash floods on LW recruitment, transport and deposition. On 25 October 2011, the Magra river basin (north-western Italy) was hit by an intense rainstorm, with hourly rainfall rates up to 130 mm h−1 and event rain accumulations up to 540 mm in 8 h. Such large rainfall intensities originated flash floods in the main river channels and in several tributaries, causing severe damages and loss of lives. Numerous bridges were partly or fully clogged by LW jams. A post-flood survey was carried out along the channels of two catchments that were severely and similarly affected by this event, the Gravegnola (34.6 km2) and Pogliaschina (25.1 km2). The analysis highlighted a very relevant channel widening in many channel reaches, which was more marked in the Gravegnola basin. Large wood recruitment rates were very high, up to 1270 m3 km−1, and most of it (70–80%) was eroded from the floodplains as a consequence of channel widening processes, while the rest came from hillslopes processes. Overall, drainage area and channel slope are the most relevant controlling variables in explaining the reach-scale variability of LW recruitment, whereas LW deposition appears to be more complex, as correlation analysis did not evidence any statistically significant relationship with the tested controlling variables. Indeed, in-channel LW displacement during the flood has been mostly limited by the presence of bridges, given the relatively large width attained by channels after the event.