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Structure and Function of an Alpine EcosystemNiwot Ridge, Colorado$
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William D. Bowman and Timothy R. Seastedt

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195117288

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195117288.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021

Geomorphic Systems of Green Lakes Valley

Geomorphic Systems of Green Lakes Valley

(p.45) 4 Geomorphic Systems of Green Lakes Valley
Structure and Function of an Alpine Ecosystem

Nel Caine

Oxford University Press

There are at least three justifications for the examination of the geomorphology of the area in which ecosystem studies are conducted. First, the present landscape and the materials that make it up provide the substrate on which ecosystem development occurs and may impose constraints, such as where soil resources are limited, on that development. Second, the nature of the landscape and the geomorphic processes acting on it often define a large part of the disturbance regime within which ecosystem processes occur (Swanson et al. 1988). Third, the processes of weathering, erosion, sediment transport, and deposition that define geomorphic dynamics within the landscape are themselves ecosystem processes, for example, involving the supply of resources to organisms. In this last context, it is noteworthy that drainage basins (also called watersheds or catchments) were recognized as units of scientific study during a similar time period in both geomorphology and ecology (Slaymaker and Chorley 1964; Bormann and Likens 1967; Chorley 1969). The drainage basin concept, the contention that lakes and streams act to integrate ecological and geomorphic processes, remains important in both sciences and underlies the studies in Green Lakes Valley reviewed here. Over the past 30 years, Niwot Ridge and the adjacent catchment of Green Lakes Valley have been the subject of much research in geomorphology. Building on the studies of Outcalt and MacPhail (1965), White (1968), and Benedict (1970), work has emphasized the study of present-day processes and dynamics, especially of mass wasting in alpine areas. These topics have been reviewed by Caine (1974, 1986), Ives (1980), and Thorn and Loewenherz (1987). Studies of geomorphic processes have been conducted in parallel with work on Pleistocene (3 million to 10,000 yr BP) and Holocene (10,000 yr BP to present) environments in the Colorado Front Range (Madole 1972; Benedict 1973) that have been reviewed by White (1982). This chapter is intended to update those reviews in terms that complement the presentation of ecological phenomena such as nitrogen saturation in the alpine (chapter 5) as well as to refine observations and conclusions of earlier geomorphic studies.

Keywords:   Avalanches, Blockfield zone, Cliffs, Debris flows, Erosion, Fine sediment system, Geochemical denudation, Kiowa Peak, Landforms

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