Carex nudata (torrent sedge) occurs in rivers throughout Oregon and northern California, and where prominent appears to function as an ecosystem engineer capable of altering river morphology. Previous studies have also found that C. nudata may indirectly facilitate the presence of other species, enhancing diversity. While the species appears to play a key role in river ecosystems, little is known about the drivers of the species’ distribution. The objective of this research is to determine the environment factors driving this species’ distribution and to test the hypothesis that distribution is driven by hydrological variables (stream power) and fluvial geomorphological variables (sediment size). This objective was pursued through a two-step process. In the first step, I used herbaria data and a species distribution model designed for presence-only data (Maxent) to construct a range-wide distribution model. Given the inherit problems in using presence-only data, the primary purpose of the range-wide distribution model was to serve as the basis for a stratified random sampling design for field surveys (stratified by predicted probability of C. nudata). In the second step, I conducted basin-wide surveys in two representative basins, the John Day and Santiam basins. At 30 study sites, I quantified abundance of C. nudata and measured environmental variables and river channel metrics. I used generalized linear models (glms) with both field-measured and digitally derived variables (bankfull discharge) to model which environmental factors best predict the abundance of C. nudata within river basins.
The Maxent draft model demonstrated that hydrological variables (mean annual discharge, velocity, stream power) dwarfed climate variables in importance in explaining C. nudata. Data from the basin-wide surveys further elaborated on this model. Results suggest that C. nudata distribution is patterned relative to factors that vary along headwater-to-mouth continuums. In particular, C. nudata is rarely found in reaches with low stream power and present (with highly variable abundance) in reaches of medium to high stream power (high disturbance potential).With its strong, dense root systems, C. nudata appears to be a disturbance-adapted species able to survive in stream reaches with medium to higher stream power. C. nudata is also associated with larger sediment sizes of the channel bed, typically occurring in gravel bed and bedrock channels but rarely found with finer sediment sizes. Finally, C. nudata appears to be tolerant of partial but not complete shade, suggesting an interaction between valley constraint and surrounding vegetation that limit distribution