OSU research: Flooding helps PNW environment

Jonathan Tonkin and Dave Lytle of Oregon State University researched how rivers flow

Flooding can sometimes become hazardous in the Pacific Northwest, but it also helps part of our environment. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Every year in the Pacific Northwest, flooding can become a real hazard, but it actually helps part of our environment too.

Ecologist Jonathan Tonkin and biologist Dave Lytle of Oregon State University researched how rivers flow and how that might change the life and surroundings along a river. When water flows, it’s good to know where and what will happen when it reaches flood stage.

Ecologist Jonathan Tonkin and biologist Dave Lytle of Oregon State University figured out a way to help see how flooding can help or hurt a community. (KOIN)

“Minute alterations or minor alterations can have major effects on how those communities are structured,” Tonkin said.

The 2 just finished a 2-year investment studying the change in river flows 150 to 250 years from now. They’ve figured out a way to help see how flooding can help or hurt a community.

“It gives us a view of possible figures that are out there, so if we go into a drier climate, what might we expect to see,” Lytle said.

Their research not only found out the differences between flooding conditions compared to drought, but it gauges just how much the river communities unwind.

Lytle and Tonkin used a ball of string method in the simulations.

“Interactions between species gives us a sense on how dense interconnected all these species are and so in healthy ecosystem it’s a tightly wrapped ball of string where everything is connected,” Lytle said.

The results after the simulations? Flooding is good.

“Floods in particular provide benefits by allowing species to recruit or reproduce in after flows and when we remove them, it’s a major way of how it affects those communities,” Tonkin said.

The researchers said their model coming out of OSU can not only help local river predictions but just about anywhere on Earth.