Project

The Natural Equilibrium Paradigm in Stream Restoration

Goal: Goals:
1. To understand the history and basis of equilibrium theory in fluvial geomorphology
2. To understand the implications of the natural equilibrium paradigm in definitions of stream stability, stream functional assessment, and stream restoration.

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Mark Beardsley
added a research item
We explored the concepts of equilibrium and stability and their role in stream assessment and restoration. The Natural Equilibrium Paradigm—the idea that streams naturally strive towards an optimally stable form that balances flow and sediment transport—is the underlying premise of stream stability definitions that presume static channel morphology with no aggradation or degradation. It is also the foundational assumption of popular hierarchical stream assessment frameworks and natural channel design methods. After researching the history of Lane's Balance and the basis of equilibrium theory in fluvial geomorphology and then reviewing 70 years of scientific research that has come forth since since equilibrium theory was popularized in the 1940s, our conclusion is that this paradigm is contrary to prevailing scientific views of how most stream systems behave. The predominance and importance of stochasticity, disturbance, discontinuity, disequilibrium, dynamics, and resilience is increasingly emphasized in modern stream science. Restoration practitioners must follow suit. The continued insistence that streams naturally seek equilibrium, that aggradation and degradation are unnatural, and that stream stability and stream function depends on a static equilibrium channel form is an outdated paradigm. This talk explains the fall of the Natural Equilibrium Paradigm using an allegory about relationships.
Mark Beardsley
added a project goal
Goals:
1. To understand the history and basis of equilibrium theory in fluvial geomorphology
2. To understand the implications of the natural equilibrium paradigm in definitions of stream stability, stream functional assessment, and stream restoration.