1. Rivers are subject to thresholds of several types that define significant changes in processes and morphology and delimit distinctive riverine landscapes and habitats. Thresholds are set by the conditions that govern river channel process and form, amongst which the most important are the flow regime, the quantity and calibre of sediment delivered to the channel, and the topographic setting (which determines the gradient of the channel). These factors determine the sediment transport regime and the character of alluvial deposits along the channel. 2. Changes occur systematically along the drainage system as flow, gradient and sediment character change, so a characteristic sequence of morphological and habitat types – hence of riverine landscapes – can be described from uplands to distal channels. The sequence is closely associated with stream competence to move sediment and with bank stability. 3. The paper proposes a first order classification of river channel and landscape types based on these factors. The riverine landscape is affected seasonally by flow thresholds, and further seasonal thresholds in northern rivers are conditioned by the ice regime. 4. It is important to understand geomorphic thresholds in rivers not only for the way they determine morphology and habitat, but because human activity can precipitate threshold crossings which change these features significantly, through either planned or inadvertent actions. Hence, human actions frequently dictate the character of the riverine landscape.
Freshwater Biology – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 2002
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