Reflections on the history of research on large wood in rivers

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Journal Article
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Swanson, Frederick J.; Gregory, Stanley V.; Iroume, Andres; Ruiz-Villanueva, Virginia; Wohl, Ellen. 2021. Reflections on the history of research on large wood in rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 46: 55-66. doi:


Dynamics and functions of large wood have become integral considerations in the science and management of river systems. Study of large wood in rivers took place as monitoring of fish response to wooden structures placed in rivers in the central United States in the early 20th century, but did not begin in earnest until the 1970s. Research has increased in intensity and thematic scope ever since. A wide range of factors has prompted these research efforts, including basic understanding of stream systems, protection and restoration of aquatic ecosystems, and environmental hazards in mountain environments. Research and management have adopted perspectives from ecology, geomorphology, and engineering, using observational, experimental, and modelling approaches. Important advances have been made where practical information needs converge with institutional and science leadership capacities to undertake multi-pronged research programmes. Case studies include ecosystem research to inform regulations for forest management; storage and transport of large wood as a component in global carbon dynamics; and the role of wood transport in environmental hazards in mountain regions, including areas affected by severe landscape disturbances, such as volcanic eruptions. As the field of research has advanced, influences of large wood on river structures and processes have been merged with understanding of streamflow and sediment regimes, so river form and function are now viewed as involving the tripartite system of water, sediment, and wood. A growing community of researchers and river managers is extending understanding of large wood in rivers to climatic, forest, landform, and social contexts not previously investigated. ? 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.