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Geomorphic classification of rivers

Posted date: January 23, 2015
Publication Year: 
Authors: Buffington, John M.;
Document type: Briefing Papers


Over the last several decades, environmental legislation and a growing awareness of historical human disturbance to rivers worldwide have fostered unprecedented collaboration among scientists, land managers, and stakeholders to better understand, monitor, and restore riverine ecosystems. The additional concern over climate change and the need for securing supplies of clean water for the burgeoning world population have further spurred collaborative watershed analyses. In geomorphology, much of this effort focuses on assessing the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances of the landscape in order to understand past response, determine current conditions, and predict likely responses to future disturbance, including land management and restoration activities.


Key findings of Science Briefing:

  • Land management and stream restoration activities require a quantitative, process-based understanding of fluvial geomorphology and biophysical interactions.
  • Process-based channel classifications impose order on the wide range of morphologies found in mountain streams based on similarities of form or function, and are one tool for addressing such problems.
  • However, classification cannot substitute for field measurements of the physical processes occurring within a river.

Related Publications

Buffington, John M. ; Montgomery, D. R. , 2013