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A geomorphic assessment to inform strategic stream restoration planning in the Middle Fork John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA


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A geomorphic assessment of the Middle Fork John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA, was used to generate a hierarchical, map-based understanding of watershed impairments and potential opportunities for improvements. Specifically, we (1) assessed river diversity (character and behavior) and patterns of reach types (and their controls); (2) evaluated the geomorphic condition of the streams; (3) interpreted their geomorphic recovery potential; and (4) synthesized the above into a hypothetical, strategic management plan. Collectively, these maps can set bounds and provide realistic guidance for river rehabilitation, design and implementation efforts. Fifteen distinct reach types were identified, two-thirds of which are found along perennial streams. On the basis of a variety of geo-indicators, approximately two-thirds of all perennial stream reaches were found to be in ‘good’ geomorphic condition, whereas one-third had departed to ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ condition. Departures from ‘good’ condition were primarily related to riparian vegetation removal, conversion of floodplain to agricultural land uses (farming and grazing), logging, and channel bed dredge mining for gold. Encouragingly, the majority of reaches classified as being in moderate geomorphic condition were found to have high recovery potential. While our geomorphic assessment has practical utility for informing physically realistic expectation management for efforts like salmonid habitat restoration, the maps themselves are the key vehicle for communicating and visualizing among stakeholders. KEYWORDS: Salmonid habitat, geomorphic condition, geomorphic recovery, river styles
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A geomorphic assessment to inform strategic
stream restoration planning in the Middle Fork
John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA
Gary R. O’Brien, Joseph Wheaton, Kirstie Fryirs, Peter McHugh, Nicolaas
Bouwes, Gary Brierley & Chris Jordan
To cite this article: Gary R. O’Brien, Joseph Wheaton, Kirstie Fryirs, Peter McHugh, Nicolaas
Bouwes, Gary Brierley & Chris Jordan (2017) A geomorphic assessment to inform strategic stream
restoration planning in the Middle Fork John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA, Journal of Maps, 13:2,
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A geomorphic assessment to inform strategic stream restoration planning in
the Middle Fork John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA
Gary R. OBrien
, Joseph Wheaton
, Kirstie Fryirs
, Peter McHugh
, Nicolaas Bouwes
, Gary Brierley
Chris Jordan
Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA;
Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University,
North Ryde, Australia;
School of Environment, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand;
Northwest Fisheries Science Center,
National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Seattle, WA, USA
A geomorphic assessment of the Middle Fork John Day Watershed, Oregon, USA, was used to
generate a hierarchical, map-based understanding of watershed impairments and potential
opportunities for improvements. Specifically, we (1) assessed river diversity (character and
behavior) and patterns of reach types (and their controls); (2) evaluated the geomorphic
condition of the streams; (3) interpreted their geomorphic recovery potential; and (4)
synthesized the above into a hypothetical, strategic management plan. Collectively, these
maps can set bounds and provide realistic guidance for river rehabilitation, design and
implementation efforts. Fifteen distinct reach types were identified, two-thirds of which are
found along perennial streams. On the basis of a variety of geo-indicators, approximately
two-thirds of all perennial stream reaches were found to be in goodgeomorphic condition,
whereas one-third had departed to moderateand poorcondition. Departures from good
condition were primarily related to riparian vegetation removal, conversion of floodplain to
agricultural land uses (farming and grazing), logging, and channel bed dredge mining for
gold. Encouragingly, the majority of reaches classified as being in moderate geomorphic
condition were found to have high recovery potential. While our geomorphic assessment has
practical utility for informing physically realistic expectation management for efforts like
salmonid habitat restoration, the maps themselves are the key vehicle for communicating
and visualizing among stakeholders.
Received 5 May 2016
Revised 13 March 2017
Accepted 28 March 2017
Salmonid habitat;
geomorphic condition;
geomorphic recovery; river
1. Introduction
Geomorphic mapping of channel patterns and reach
types over entire drainage networks sets the stage for
restoration and conservation planning (Beechie &
Imaki, 2014). In particular, efforts to recover threa-
tened and endangered populations of anadromous sal-
mon (Oncorhynchus spp.) and steelhead (O.mykiss)
across the U.S. Pacific Northwest rely heavily on
stream restoration intended to mitigate or reverse
human impacts (Montgomery, 2004). Those impacts,
commonly referred to as the four Hshatchery prac-
tices, hydropower dams, harvest, and habitat loss/
degradation have spurred intense efforts to quantify
the status and trends of fish populations (and their
habitats), as well as to identify management actions
that might improve population viability (Mann &
Plummer, 2000;Rucklehaus, Levin, Johnson, & Kar-
eiva, 2002;Wheaton et al., 2017). Within the Interior
Columbia Basin in particular (see Plate 1), biological
opinions issued by the National Marine Fisheries Ser-
vice (NMFS), under the National Oceanic and Atmos-
pheric Administration (NOAA), developed population
recovery plans that lean heavily on tributary habitat
restoration (NMFS, 2008). Accordingly, a myriad of
river restoration efforts have been implemented across
subwatersheds (e.g. Holburn, Piety, Lyon, McAffee, &
Callahan, 2008;Reclamation, 2010). Many of these
interventions are opportunistic, pursued at a reach
scale without knowledge of the watershed context of
geomorphic condition and recovery potential. As a
consequence, they may not produce the desired overall
fish population response because they do not strategi-
cally target key limiting factors, connections between
and across isolated reaches, or address the root causes
of degradation at the appropriate scale (Bennett et al.,
2016). Moreover, many restoration efforts have the
best of intentions, but fail to produce physically realis-
tic goals for the streams they are intended to improve.
Restoration efforts can benefit greatly from geo-
morphic assessments that recognize the importance
of the watershed-scale context when evaluating indi-
vidual stream reach conditions (Beechie et al., 2010;
Beechie, Pess, Roni, & Giannico, 2008;Demarchi,
Bizzi, & Piégay, 2016). The resulting network-scale
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
CONTACT Gary R. OBrien Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
VOL. 13, NO. 2, 369381
maps (i.e. reach resolution and watershed extent over
the drainage network) represent the most concise
way to distill and communicate the end products of
such a geomorphic assessment in a way that can
directly support watershed management (Wheaton
et al., 2017).
Through geomorphic assessment, the rivers and
streams that comprise a drainage network of a water-
shed can be broken into distinctive reaches and similar
reach types grouped together (Buffington & Montgom-
ery, 2013;Kasprak et al., 2016). Landscape units, lithol-
ogy and rock strength, stream power and drainage
basin area are all important controls on river character
and behavior (Church, 1992;Schumm, 1977). Inter-
actions among these factors shape channels and their
floodplains forming reaches of relatively distinctive
structure and function (Buffington & Montgomery,
2013;Kellerhals, Church, & Bray, 1976). A reach
break is the physical transition between different adja-
cent reach types with characteristic valley setting, plan-
form, bed material, and geomorphic unit assemblages.
In this study, such process-based reach types are
synonymous with distinct river styles (cf. Brierley &
Fryirs, 2005). Valley confinement is a key driver of
reach breaks throughout a watershed (e.g. Fryirs,
Wheaton, & Brierley, 2016a;Montgomery & Buffing-
ton, 1997) (see Plate 3). The degree of confinement
controls the ability of a channel to adjust laterally
and, to some extent, vertically on the valley bottom.
Measures of confinement are used to differentiate val-
ley settings (Brierley & Fryirs, 2005;Fryirs et al.,
The geomorphology of river channels and their
floodplains is key to understanding the processes that
create and maintain habitat conditions suitable for sal-
monid species (Beechie & Sibley, 1997;Gilbert, Macfar-
lane, & Wheaton, 2016;Wheaton et al., 2010). An
analysis of a rivers current geomorphic condition
and its recovery potential not only informs potential
restoration targets and priorities, it can also support
assessments of salmonidhabitat relationships at a var-
iety of spatial scales (e.g. ISEMP/CHaMP, 2015). Hier-
archical geomorphic assessments provide insight that
can enhance the success and cost-effectiveness of
ongoing salmonid habitat restoration efforts (Bennett
et al., 2016). Salmonids implicitly considergeo-
morphic features at multiple levels of a geomorphic
hierarchy when selecting/using habitats (Fausch, Tor-
gersen, Baxter, & Li, 2002). Ideal spawning locations
for bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), for example,
are characterized by both a particular in-channel geo-
morphic unit assemblage (i.e. poolriffle transitions)
and specific valley setting (i.e. unconfined alluvial val-
leys (Baxter & Hauer, 2000;Bean, Wilcox, Woessner, &
Muhlfeld, 2014)). In a case such as this, restoration pri-
orities set by in-channel features alone are likely to be
misleading. Further, a watershed-scale perspective on
the abundance and spatial arrangement of particular
reach types some of which may be rare but critical
to particular species and/or life stages is needed to
understand the overall feasibility of watersheds to sup-
port robust and resilient fish populations (Fausch et al.,
2002;Rosenfeld & Hatfield, 2006). Yet, fish population
and habitat assessments have historically neglected this
critical multi-scale view (Fausch et al., 2002). This hier-
archical perspective of riverine habitat also helps res-
toration practitioners avoid some of the costly
mistakes of the past. For instance, the U.S. Pacific
Northwest is replete with examples of large wood pla-
cement projects that aimed to enhance salmonid habi-
tat but failed due to a lack of consideration of local
geomorphic conditions and watershed hydrology (e.g.
Frissell & Nawa, 1992). By formally considering a
reachs natural behavior, trajectory, and capacity for
adjustment, such assessments can help restoration
practitioners to work with nature(Brierley, Fryirs,
Outhet, & Massey, 2002) leading to longer lasting
and more appropriately sited restoration treatments.
This purpose of this paper and the associated maps
is to illustrate a practical application of a multiscalar
geomorphic assessment framework that can aid in
planning and prioritization of ecological restoration
and management. The Main Map embodying the
assessment is packaged as an atlas. The atlas supports
building realistic expectations for watershed managers
and stakeholders to constrain management actions
based on a sound understanding of watershed-scale
processes. Specifically, links between the physical
environment and aquatic ecosystems, support efforts
to move beyond site or reach-specific management
applications to procedures that work with watershed-
specific process relationships. This is especially impor-
tant for fish protection (Fausch et al., 2002). We use the
Middle Fork John Day Watershed in Oregon, USA as a
case study.
2. Study watershed
The Middle Fork John Day (hereafter MFJD) Water-
shed, northeast Oregon, USA, is home to populations
of summer steelhead listed under the Endangered
Species Act and at-risk Chinook salmon (Oncor-
hynchus tshawytscha) and has been the focus of numer-
ous studies, which make it an excellent candidate for
illustrating the potential utility of the River Styles Fra-
mework. The MFJD River has been the focus of mul-
tiple previous geomorphic investigations (e.g.
Butcher, Crown, Brannan, Kishida, & Hubler, 2010;
Dietrich, 2014,2016;McDowell, 2001;Reclamation,
2008;Torgersen, Price, Li, & McIntosh, 1999). Kasprak
et al. (2016) used the MFJD to compare and contrast
different reach typing (stream channel classification)
frameworks (including river styles). The MFJD has
been the subject of stream temperature thermal fish
habitat studies (e.g. Feldhaus, Heppell, Hiram, & Mesa,
2010;McNyset, Volk, & Jordan, 2015;Torgersen et al.,
1999), continuous fish surveys and habitat assessments
(e.g. Blanchard, 2015), site-scale bioenergetic ecohy-
draulic modeling (Wall, Bouwes, Wheaton, Saunders,
& Bennett, 2015), and salmonid life cycle modeling
(McHugh et al., in press). In addition to fish studies,
the MFJD has been the focus of research on freshwater
mussels (e.g. Box et al., 2006;Hegeman, Miller, &
Mock, 2014;Mock et al., 2010) that have shed new
light on what sort of habitats these species prefer.
The MFJD Watershed is also an Intensively Monitored
Watershed (Bennett et al., 2016) in which extensive
restoration is being coordinated (Holburn, Turner,
Piety, & Klinger, 2009;Reclamation, 2008) in an effort
to understand how specific actions influence fish and
their habitat (i.e. determine if restoration is effective
at increasing the populations). In addition, habitat sta-
tus and trend monitoring is conducted through the
Columbia Habitat and Monitoring Program
[CHaMP] (2012). While not the focus of this paper,
collectively these past studies in the MFJD provide an
excellent backdrop in which the maps presented here
can help shed new light and context for.
We conducted a hierarchical geomorphic assess-
ment using Brierley and Fryirs (2005) in the MFJD
Watershed to inform ongoing and future research
and restoration planning efforts. This framework
organizes traditional geomorphic assessment in terms
of four stages: (1) river classification (i.e. reach typing);
(2) geomorphic condition assessment; (3) recovery
potential analysis; and (4) development of a strategic
management plan to address potential restoration
and rehabilitation goals. Analyses are nestedacross
spatial scales of watersheds, landscape units, river
reaches, and geomorphic units (landforms) (Figure 1).
Initially, morphometric, hypsometric, and geomorphic
analyses are required to characterize river character,
behavior and patterns at the watershed scale (summar-
ized as reach types). An understanding of current and
historic geomorphic processes along with human per-
turbation influences are used to assess condition and
forecast recovery potential as part of developing a stra-
tegic river management plan (White, Justice, Kelsey,
McCullough, & Smith, 2017).
The MFJD Watershed is a 2050 km
of the Columbia River Basin located in east-central
Oregon (see Plate 1). The MFJD River flows northwes-
terly from headwaters on the western flank of the Blue
Mountains, a rugged series of ranges in northeastern
Oregon. The John Day Basin lies in the rain shadow
of the Cascade Range (mean annual precipitation
=3556 cm; temperature range = 10°C to 5°C in
winter and 1030°C in summer) and is underlain by
Cretaceous volcanic, marine sedimentary, and granitic
rocks overlain by the Miocene Picture Gorge Basalt of
the Columbia River Basalt Group (e.g. Walker &
MacLeod, 1991). The basin has a semi-arid climate
across upland landscapes, but is locally diverse, ranging
from alpine and forested mountains to grass- and
scrublands of the adjacent foothills and low-relief, tem-
perate steppe uplands. Vegetation communities are
stratified along moisture and elevation gradients
between mesic highland, mixed spruce and subalpine
fir forests, and sage grasslands of the upland and table-
land environments.
The MFJD Watershed consists of five Hydrologic
Unit Code 10 (HUC) subwatersheds (Seaber, Kapinos,
& Knapp, 1987) that join the 131-km long central
trunk stream of the MFJD River. The topography con-
tains a high-relief stream network with high drainage
density, marked by steep-sloped canyons, deeply dis-
sected highlands, broad tablelands, and rounded
uplands replete with broad meadows. We identified
and mapped six landscape unitsthat range from
high elevation, moist alpine terrain in the south and
east, to semi-arid volcanic tablelands to the northwest
(Plate 2).
3. Mapping data and methods
The methods used to implement the geomorphic
assessment are well documented in Brierley and Fryirs
(2005; i.e. the River Styles Framework) and summar-
ized in Figure 1. Here we focus more on describing
the specifics of how we implemented that framework
within the Middle Fork John Day to produce the
maps presented here.
3.1. Desktop analyses and stream survey
The bulk of the desktop analysis and field-based vali-
dation work is centered on the regional landscape
and watershed investigations essential to the stream
classification exercise. To aid in our desktop analysis,
we used Google Earth Pro (v., 2013) and
other geographic information system (GIS) readable
imagery, in conjunction with the National Elevation
Dataset (NED; USGS, 1999) and National Hydrogra-
phy Dataset (NHD; USGS, 2007), to document the
landscape-scale physiographic attributes such as
underlying geology, vegetation patterns and compo-
sition, relief, drainage density and a thorough visual
interpretation of stream and valley attributes. Air
photo analysis is critical for validating preliminary
mapping of the valley bottom (Gilbert et al., 2016),
channel, and where aerial photo resolution allows, for
bed material inference and in-channel geomorphic
units. Determining reach breaks (e.g. Buffington &
Montgomery, 2013;Wohl & Merritt, 2008) is the single
most important analytical step in developing network-
based maps comprising multiple variables (e.g. stream
classification, geomorphic condition, recovery poten-
tial, and prioritized management classes) (Table 1).
Reach breaks are identified through changes in valley
setting and associated channel confinement (Fryirs,
Wheaton, & Brierley, 2016b), river planform, the
assemblage of geomorphic units (i.e. floodplain and
channel landforms; cf. Notebaert & Piégay, 2013;
Wheaton et al., 2015) and bed material texture. We
validated our remotely sensed interpretations with
field visits to representative reach type localities to
map valley slope, floodplain and in-channel geo-
morphic units for each unique reach type (i.e. River
Table 1. Categorical levels used for the network stream line attributes in each classification and status map (see Plates 47 of the
River classification map Watershed status maps
River styles Geomorphic condition Recovery potential Prioritized management
Reach breaks Intact Intact Conservation reach
Valley setting Good High Strategic reach
Confined Moderate Moderate Connected reach with high recovery potential
Partly confined Poor Low Isolated reach with high recovery potential
Laterally unconfined Moderate recovery potential
Planform (sinuosity) Low recovery potential
Floodplain geomorphic units
Instream geomorphic units
Bed material texture
Structural elements
Note: Floodplain and instream geomorphic units and structural elements comprise a large set of possible taxonomic units (see Wheaton et al., 2015 for
details). Bed material texture is based on the grain size classification scheme of Buffington and Montgomery (1999).
Figure 1. Products produced when undertaking a River Styles geomorphic assessment noting the examples that are included in this
paper. Superscripts note the hierarchical scale at which the analysis is undertaken.
Style; e.g. see Plate 3). The field-based ground-truth-
ing, mapping, and data collection efforts are critical
for extrapolating channel classes throughout the
study watershed.
Longitudinal profile plots provide a key tool for
understanding and interpreting the downstream pat-
terns of rivers in each watershed, and controls that gov-
ern their form and function. This data display allows for
efficient analysis of downstream variations in types of
landscape units (and sediment process zones), upstream
watershed area, slope, total stream power and their
relationships to valley confinement and reach type
(Figure 2). Longitudinal profiles were constructed
using the National Hydrography Dataset version 1
(1:24,000) and WBD layers to derive upstream water-
shed area from an integrated flow accumulation raster
derived from a 10 m digital elevation model (DEM).
To extract longitudinal profiles, we segmented the
streamlines into 100 m reach segments for which we cal-
culated upstream watershed area and reach slope. For
this operation we used the Geospatial Modeling
Environment (GME) tool (Beyer, 2012).
Total stream power, a measure of the capability of a
river to do work (i.e. rework and transport sediment)
against the bed and banks of the river channel per
unit downstream length (e.g. Worthy, 2005), was calcu-
lated for each 100 m interval:
where ρis the density of water, gis acceleration due to
gravity, Qis a characteristic discharge, Sis the chan-
nel slope, and Ωis stream power in Watts. We used a
two-year recurrence interval flow for discharge (Q
given the effectiveness of frequent bankfull flows in
modifying and maintaining channel form relative
to larger magnitude, infrequent flood stage flows
(Wolman & Miller, 1960). To estimate Qfor the
Middle Fork John Day River,a regional regression
equation was obtained from the United States Geo-
logical Survey (USGS) National Streamflow Statistics
Website (URL:
nss/pubs.html) and we used the National Stream-
flow Statistics Program (Ries, 2006) to compute an
area-discharge relationship between Q
and drainage
area. The relationship was verified by calculating
a linear regression based on seven gauges in the
John Day basin, including the Middle Fork, and
regional gauge data from northeastern Oregon
(Harris & Hubbard, 1982;Kasprak & Wheaton,
2012). Streamflow data of flood recurrence and flow
Figure 2. Controls on channel morphology and downstream patterns of reach types on the Middle Fork John Day River and Squaw
duration analyses were obtained from the USGS
streamflow website for Oregon (URL: http://or. The Log-Pearson III analysis of
peak discharge data was performed using the
methods outlined by Klingeman, Bogavelli, Coles,
and Wright (2002) (see Plate 3).
3.2. Building the network-based classification
and status maps
The network-based status maps display results of land-
scape units, river type, geomorphic condition, recovery
potential, and prioritized strategic plan analyses. The
atlas maps (see Plates 17) were built in Esri ArcMap
using the 1:24,000 NHD version 1 (USGS, 2007)as
the baseline network for delineating reach breaks and
other variables on maps. This cartographically derived,
digital vector dataset closely matches the actual course
of the river visible in air photos. Line segments of inter-
est were assigned the appropriate categorical variables.
For example, segments denoting river classifications
begin and end at geomorphic reach breaks. In addition,
segments are categorized according to their
geomorphic condition, recovery potential and priori-
tized management (Table 1). Stream length and valley
confinement proportions were summarized for the
whole MFJD Watershed and its five subwatersheds
(Figure 4). We used NED 30 m raster DEMs to extract
elevation data and hillshade images, clipped to hydro-
logic unit codes (HUC) 8 and 10 watershed boundaries.
Stream length statistics for each analysis were gener-
ated in ArcMap and exported to Microsoft Excel for
processing. The completed raster and vector data
were exported to Adobe Illustrator for rendering of
maps and summary figures.
4. Map guides and discussion
4.1. Stream classification (river character and
Fifteen different reach types were identified, spanning
the range of confined, partly confined, and laterally
unconfined valley settings found within the MFJD
Watershed (see Plates 1 and 4). This included both per-
ennial and ephemeral streams. Stream attributes lead-
ing to the classification are listed in organizational
Figure 3. Example River Styles tree for Middle Fork John Day Watershed streams in the partly confined valley setting. This tree
documents the key attributes of these reach types and is ordered in a hierarchical fashion. River Styles trees were also completed
for streams of confined, and laterally unconfined valley settings but are not shown here (see OBrien & Wheaton, 2015).
trees that include explicit, objective, and/or quantitat-
ive criteria (Figure 3). We summarized the frequency
of stream length by river classes and valley settings
for five HUC 10 subwatersheds (Figure 4). These
data are critical for understanding the partitioned
nature of the watershed and to track attributes that
are helpful for a variety of geomorphic and habitat-
related analyses. For example, Figure 4 summarizes
stream length data for the 962 km perennial network,
which is used by anadromous fish, whereas Plate 1
shows the equivalent mapping for the entire 4110 km
perennial, ephemeral, and intermittent drainage net-
work. This provides insight into geomorphic par-
ameters that may be directly relevant to fish and their
habitat or indirectly through their more sporadic
contributions of water, wood, and sediment to the per-
ennial network from upstream tributaries. Since Plate 4
summarizes the same numbers for the entire perennial,
intermittent, and ephemeral drainage network, it may
be more appropriate to informing a holistic watershed
management approach as opposed to just fish-centric
management activities. For those interested in how
the River Styles classification reported here compares
to that of other common classification systems, the
reader is referred to Buffington and Montgomery
(2013) and Kasprak et al. (2016). This latter paper
includes a comparison specific to the MFJD
For each representative downstream pattern of
River Styles, OBrien and Wheaton (2015) produced
Figure 4. Summary distribution of reach types (River Styles) of perennial stream in terms of stream length and valley confinement.
For information that includes the ephemeral stream network, see Plate 4 of the atlas (supplemental material).
a longitudinal profile depicting geomorphic controls
including landscape units (and geology), total stream
power, and sediment process zones (i.e. Figure 2). As
noted by May, Roering, Eaton, and Burnett (2013)
and May, Roering, Snow, Griswold, and Gresswell
(2017), geomorphic controls upon knickpoint develop-
ment and valley confinement relationships exert a pri-
mary control upon fish stocks, and associated fish
management issues, in this part of the world.
4.2. Geomorphic condition
Streams and rivers are dynamic entities. The propen-
sity for channel adjustment varies across River Styles.
The current geomorphic condition of each reach
reflects its capacity for adjustment, and an analysis of
river evolution (Figure 5) that considers whether the
reach has a contemporary structure and function that
is expected for that River Style (Fryirs, 2015). A
range of geomorphic indicators are used to perform
this analysis (Plate 5). Thus, reaches of the same style
can be in various states of geomorphic condition. Ana-
lyses of geomorphic condition highlight the discre-
pancy between historic and current channel
configuration and identifies potential locations for
mitigation or protection.
We assigned geomorphic condition for each reach
based on the physical indicators that informed the
condition assessment. These explanations, in conjunc-
tion with watershed maps, offer managers a resource
for more effectively identifying problem areas and
opportunities when designing a management plan
(see OBrien & Wheaton, 2015). The MFJD Watershed
contains a range of rivers in various geomorphic con-
ditions. Plate 5 partitions the stream network into cat-
egories of intact, good, moderate, and poor geomorphic
condition. We also derived stream length metrics for
the perennial network to include the portions of sub-
watersheds hosting populations of salmonid species
(Figure 6(A) and Plate 1).
4.3. Geomorphic recovery potential
An analysis of a reachs capacity for improvement in
geomorphic condition over a relevant time period, gen-
erally 50100 years, serves as the primary basis for
assessing river recovery potential (Fryirs & Brierley,
2016). Key to these assessments are (1) an understand-
ing of the sensitivity to adjustment and responses to
historical impacts; (2) the landscape/watershed pos-
ition of the affected reach and its proximity to either
good or poor condition reaches (particularly those
positioned upstream); and (3) consideration of the cur-
rent (and likely future) limiting factors and pressures
that impact upon that reach. The recovery potential
of a specific reach is represented on a river recovery
Figure 5. Evolutionary sequences for the low sinuosity gravel bed River Style.
diagram that presents the current state and the pre-
dicted, potential future outcome, given different man-
agement scenarios from the do-nothing(passive
restoration) to the full interventionoptions (Figure 7).
The sum of these assessments is shown on Plate 6 and
summarized as perennial stream length data in
Figure 6(B).
Our watershed map of geomorphic recovery poten-
tial (Plate 6) suggests that, with a few exceptions, most
streams in the MFJD Watershed have a high capacity to
recover from land use pressures without intervention.
However, streams in the southeast portion of the
watershed have incurred disproportionate impacts in
a relatively delicate landscape (basic soils, sparse for-
ests, accessible terrain for multiple land uses), and
have only moderate recovery potential. Isolated reaches
of the mainstem and a few tributaries have poor
recovery potential their geomorphic condition and
function will not improve without intervention (e.g.
Figure 6(B), Bridge Creek Unit).
4.4. Building a prioritized river management
Using the results of reach types, geomorphic condition,
and recovery potential, we developed a watershed-
framed strategic plan wherein realistic goals for river
rehabilitation and restoration occurring over a time-
frame of 50100 years are defined (see Plate 7). The
proposed plan is not a major departure from the key
management drivers (e.g. Reclamation, 2010) that are
currently operating in the MFJD Watershed. Manage-
ment objectives in our hypothetical, geomorphically
focused strategic management plan encourage conser-
vation of unique or remaining natural areas, followed
by restoration and rehabilitation efforts that support
and promote the geomorphic function (i.e. discharge
and sediment flux) of good condition reaches with
high recovery potential. Reaches in poor condition
with little recovery potential are given the lowest pri-
ority for rehabilitation or restoration.
Figure 6. Combined perennial stream length data for subwatersheds of the Middle Fork John Day Watershed. (A) Geomorphic
condition data are on left hand panel and (B) recovery potential data are on the right hand panel. Note these data summarize
the perennial network, whereas stream length data summarized for the whole watershed are presented in Plates 47 of the atlas.
5. Conclusions and implications
Our study presents a series of maps for the MFJD
Watershed in northeast Oregon, which help set phys-
ically realistic, geomorphic bounds on what might be
possible for managers to achieve through restoration
and conservation actions. The maps provide consistent,
watershed-wide assessments of geomorphic reach type,
condition and recovery potential to guide river restor-
ation planning and inform strategic river management
practice. The communication of findings using maps is
intuitive, simplifying outputs from quite complex geo-
morphic assessments such as OBrien and Wheaton
(2015) and Reclamation (2008). The results corrobo-
rate previous documentation that the MFJD Watershed
has experienced significant impact through grazing
operations, road building and clear-cut logging, chan-
nel re-routing, floodplain/wetland drainage, and chan-
nel bed mining throughout the last century (NOAA,
2013;Reclamation, 2010). Fortunately, the most
damaging of these practices have since been curtailed
and the recovery potential for the watershed is very
favorable with 69% of perennial streams and 74% of
all streams showing high recovery potential. While
the maps can provide geomorphic insight that is
immediately relevant to assessments of physical habitat
for fish, they do not consider other ecological (e.g.
temperature and food availability) or socio-political
(e.g. land ownership) factors that might influence the
inherent value or recovery potential of reaches. The
preliminary strategic management map we present
here is reasonable from a physical feasibility perspec-
tive, but further modifications to reflect the values of
the various stakeholders involved in the planning pro-
cess would be necessary (OBrien, Wheaton, &
Bouwes, 2015). In systems with a more complicated
array of impacts extending beyond just physical habitat
(Wheaton et al., 2017), the River Styles Framework can
easily be combined with other lines of evidence, beyond
Figure 7. Geomorphic condition variants shown as conceptual cross sections, and their recovery potential, for the low sinuosity
gravel bed River Style. The current conditions are shown at left, and restored, rehabilitated and created conditions and potential
pathways are shown to the right.
the physical environment, to inform management
Network-based analyses and their derivative maps
were processed Using Esri ArcMap10.3.1.4959.
Google Earth Pro v. was used to search and
validate our geomorphic interpretations during the
desktopphase of the study. Longitudinal profile
plots were extracted using the GME tool (Beyer,
2012). Stream length data were summarized and
plotted in Microsoft Excel, and all maps and figures
were rendered using Adobe Illustrator version CC ver-
sion 17.1.0 (64 bit).
Kirstie Fryirs thanks the Australian Research Council for
financial support. Gary Brierley thanks University of Auck-
land for support on study leave. The authors are grateful
to three reviewers for their helpful critiques and insights,
which helped improve the clarity of the maps and
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Support for this manuscript was provided by grants from the
Bonneville Power Administration to Eco Logical Research,
Inc. (BPA Project Number: 2003-017) and subsequent grants
from ELR to Utah State University (USU Award ID:
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... The example shown in Fig 12 uses the River Styles database to relate the distribution of fish and threatened frogs to certain types of habitats along different river types. In the USA, the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program (CHaMP) has developed its own database for fish habitat mapping and monitoring, appraising life-cycle processes and carrying capacity of rivers from local to catchment scales [72,73]. ...
... Applications of the River Styles Framework have demonstrated that it has significant explanatory power [72,73,85]. However, this also comes with risks and potential for misuse, with untrained or inexperienced users using the Framework and database for purposes other than those for which they were initially derived. ...
Full-text available
A fundamental premise of river management is that practitioners understand the resource they are working with. In river management this requires that baseline information is available on the structure, function, health and trajectory of rivers. Such information provides the basis to contextualise, to plan, to be proactive, to prioritise, to set visions, to set goals and to undertake objective, pragmatic, transparent and evidence-based decision making. In this paper we present the State-wide NSW River Styles database, the largest and most comprehensive dataset of geomorphic river type, condition and recovery potential available in Australia. The database is an Open Access product covering over 216,600 km of stream length in an area of 802,000 km ² . The availability of the database presents unprecedented opportunities to systematically consider river management issues at local, catchment, regional and state-wide scales, and appropriately contextualise applications in relation to programs at other scales (e.g. internationally)–something that cannot be achieved independent from, or without, such a database. We present summary findings from the database and demonstrate through use of examples how the database has been used in geomorphologically-informed river management. We also provide a cautionary note on the limitations of the database and expert advice on lessons learnt during its development to aid others who are undertaking similar analyses.
... This form-process paradigm [1] gave rise to a variety of reach-scale geomorphic classifications [e.g., 2,3]. With increasing collaborations between scientists and stakeholders, basin-wide hierarchical classifications such as the River Styles framework have gained traction [e.g., [4][5][6][7][8][9]. Such classifications usually rely on field-based observations of valley confinement [10], channel geometry (e.g., width and sinuosity) and instream features (e.g., bar and pool). ...
... Information related to these attributes is rarely available at sufficient resolution over entire regions to accurately extrapolate classes to a stream network. O'Brien et al. [7] relied on a rich geospatial data set including extensive remote sensing and field mapping to extrapolate channel types in a 2,050 km 2 catchment. Although it is possible to predict channel types using only information in available regional databases, reach-scale attributes in such databases often have significantly different values than those observed in the field [e.g., 21] so direct prediction of channel types without mindful consideration of data scaling problems will likely yield poor results. ...
... This form process paradigm (Davis, 1899) gave rise to a variety of reach-scale geomorphic classifications (e.g., Montgomery & Buffington, 1997;Rosgen, 1994). With increasing collaborations between scientists and stakeholders, basin-wide hierarchical classifications such as the River Styles framework have gained traction (e.g., Alexander et al., 2009;Brierley & Fryirs, 2013;Jha & Diplas, 2017;O'Brien & Wheaton, 2014;O'Brien et al., 2017;Rinaldi et al., 2015). Such classifications usually rely on field-based observations of valley confinement (Fryirs et al., 2016), channel geometry (e.g., width and sinuosity) and instream features (e.g., bar and pool). ...
... Information related to these attributes is rarely available at sufficient resolution over entire regions to accurately extrapolate classes to a stream network. O'Brien et al. (2017) relied on a rich geospatial data set including extensive remote sensing and field mapping to extrapolate channel types in a 2,050-km 2 catchment. Although it is possible to predict channel types using only information in available regional databases, reach-scale attributes in such databases often have significantly different values than those observed in the field (e.g., Neeson et al., 2008) so direct prediction of channel types without mindful consideration of data scaling problems will likely yield poor results. ...
Full-text available
Seasonal flow transitions between wet and dry conditions are a primary control on river conditions, including biogeochemical processes and aquatic life-history strategies. In regions like California with highly seasonal flow patterns and immense interannual variability, a rigorous approach is needed to accurately identify and quantify seasonal flow transitions from the annual flow regime. Drawing on signal processing theory, this study develops a transferable approach to detect the timing of seasonal flow transitions from daily streamflow time series using an iterative smoothing, feature detection, and windowing methodology. The approach is shown to accurately identify and characterize seasonal flows across highly variable natural flow regimes in California. A quantitative error assessment validated the accuracy of the approach, finding that inaccuracies in seasonal timing identification did not exceed 10%, with infrequent exceptions. Results for seasonal timing were also used to highlight the statistically distinct timing found across streams with varying climatic drivers in California. The proposed approach improves understanding of spatial and temporal trends in hydrologic processes and climate conditions across complex landscapes and informs environmental water management efforts by delineating timing of seasonal flows.
... This form-process paradigm [1] gave rise to a variety of reach-scale geomorphic classifications [e.g., 2,3]. With increasing collaborations between scientists and stakeholders, basin-wide hierarchical classifications such as the River Styles framework have gained traction [e.g., [4][5][6][7][8][9]. Such classifications usually rely on field-based observations of valley confinement [10], channel geometry (e.g., width and sinuosity) and instream features (e.g., bar and pool). ...
... Information related to these attributes is rarely available at sufficient resolution over entire regions to accurately extrapolate classes to a stream network. O'Brien et al. [7] relied on a rich geospatial data set including extensive remote sensing and field mapping to extrapolate channel types in a 2,050 km 2 catchment. Although it is possible to predict channel types using only information in available regional databases, reach-scale attributes in such databases often have significantly different values than those observed in the field [e.g., 21] so direct prediction of channel types without mindful consideration of data scaling problems will likely yield poor results. ...
Full-text available
Hydrologic and geomorphic classifications have gained traction in response to the increasing need for basin-wide water resources management. Regardless of the selected classification scheme, an open scientific challenge is how to extend information from limited field sites to classify tens of thousands to millions of channel reaches across a basin. To address this spatial scaling challenge, this study leverages machine learning to predict reach-scale geomorphic channel types using publicly available geospatial data. A bottom-up machine learning approach selects the most accurate and stable model among ∼20,000 combinations of 287 coarse geospatial predictors, preprocessing methods, and algorithms in a three-tiered framework to (i) define a tractable problem and reduce predictor noise, (ii) assess model performance in statistical learning, and (iii) assess model performance in prediction. This study also addresses key issues related to the design, interpretation, and diagnosis of machine learning models in hydrologic sciences. In an application to the Sacramento River basin (California, USA), the developed framework selects a Random Forest model to predict 10 channel types previously determined from 290 field surveys over 108,943 two hundred-meter reaches. Performance in statistical learning is reasonable with a 61% median cross-validation accuracy, a sixfold increase over the 10% accuracy of the baseline random model, and the predictions coherently capture the large-scale geomorphic organization of the landscape. Interestingly, in the study area, the persistent roughness of the topography partially controls channel types and the variation in the entropy-based predictive performance is explained by imperfect training information and scale mismatch between labels and predictors.
... Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry has been shown to collect high-quality elevation data and accurate orthophotographs and has been applied at large extents (Javernick et al. 2014;Dietrich 2016;Rusnák et al. 2018). Furthermore, GIS tools (e.g., O'Brien et al. 2017) can be used to replace field methods that are time consuming and often used as covariates (e.g., gradient). The myriad of technological and computing advancements will continue to provide opportunities for larger and potentially more precise data sets. ...
Accurately estimating stream characteristics is essential for managing and restoring populations and aquatic ecosystems. Reach-based sampling designs have been used extensively to collect fisheries related data; however, few studies have examined the effectiveness of reach-based sampling designs for stream habitat assessments. Here, we used continuous habitat surveys to census stream attributes in tributaries in the upper Lewis River, WA and better understand the potential bias and precision of reach-based designs. We used resampling analyses via bootstrapping to create simulated outcomes of different sampling designs including simple random with equal probability, simple random with unequal probability, and a generalized random tessellation stratified design (GRTS). We found precision of estimates of habitat attributes (large woody debris, residual pool depth, and grain size) increased with sampling intensity; however, the effort needed to achieve reasonable precision (CV = 0.20) varied across streams, attributes, and designs. Bias was relatively low, but also varied across streams and attributes. Our findings illustrate the challenges of using reach-based designs for stream habitat assessments and the need for novel approaches for broader data collection.
... Alternate bars were present in the upper section. These patterns are typical in confined and partly confined valleys as the Upper and the Lower Bienne River (Fryirs, 2013(Fryirs, , 2017O'Brien et al., 2017). The riverbed grain size and the specific potential stream power of the Bienne River are in concordance with a moderately braided channel pattern (Kleinhans and van den Berg, 2011). ...
As within many European rivers in mountainous areas, the Bienne River (Jura Mountains, France) has been severely impacted by the implementation of obstacles to river flow. The aim of this study is to better understand how hydro-sedimentary dysfunctions (complex alterations of sediment transport in response to river engineering) can influence contaminants storage along the river. The sediment pollution trajectory was reconstructed based (1) on a well-dated sediment core, and (2) on several sediment samples taken at different depths on six riverbank profiles. Age control was established with a well-defined ¹³⁷Cs profile and time-related grain size transitions in the sediment core, and only relatively for riverbank profiles using a plasticizer and PCB contents as chemical markers of the Anthropocene. Riverbanks and the core are composed of fine-grained legacy sediments deposited during the 20th century. They covered the former active channel mostly composed of pebbles and cobbles. Historical contaminants were the highest in the most upstream station and declined in the downstream direction to reach relatively low values in the lower river section. This historical upstream signal poorly influences the geochemical composition of sediments in the lower reaches, due its attenuation by numerous human-made obstacles to river flow and to the limited sediment transport capacity of the river. According to an unmixing model, the contribution of the upper sediments only weights a small percentage of the sedimentary mixture at the river outlet. These results highlight the sedimentary storage capacity of historical contaminants in mountain coarse-bedded river. This phenomenon has been led by a riverbed narrowing and stabilization caused by deep alterations of hydro-sedimentary processes. It finally emphasizes storage of sedimentary contaminants and leads to limited source influences. Hence, this study shows the key role of sedimentary transport, which triggers spatial and temporal variability of contaminants stored in sediments.
... Deep-rooted vegetation strengthens channel boundary conditions (Shit & Maiti, 2012;Mulyono et al., 2018), thereby providing hydraulic conditions that are ideal for the development of aquatic habitats. These buffers also allow the stream to maintain its base-flow during low flow seasons (Schlosser & Karr, 1981), which directly affects the aquatic habitat extent and quality (O'Brien et al., 2017). Stream buffers ideally consist of native tree species preserved in their natural form for much of the stream length and provide easy travel and dispersal routes for wildlife (Lees & Peres, 2008), thereby helping preserve the biodiversity of the region (O'Donnell et al., 2015). ...
The channel and adjacent floodplain tracts of rivers comprise the riparian zone, which is sensitive to a variety of natural/environmental and human-induced hazards. The degradation of this riparian zone leads to the loss of landscape connectivity, interruption of biogeochemical cycles and material fluxes and engenders adverse impacts on the flora and fauna occupying it, both physiologically and through habitat loss and fragmentation. This brief review paper examines the salient characteristics of the riparian zone and the common hazards that afflict it. It also provides insights into the various mapping, measurement and modelling methods construed over time that are in vogue to investigate and characterise such hazards, gauge their impacts and devise possible ameliorative frameworks for the same. The natural hazards considered here are annual floods and high stream flows, soil loss occurring due to overbank flow and runoff, river erosion and bankline failure. Alongside this, the marked degradational impacts engendered by sand mining within the river channel (both on the bed and from in-channel deposits) and from the adjacent floodplain on the local environment are detailed. Word clouds have been used to highlight the most oft-repeated or used catchphrases and terms while undertaking the above researches in the respective hazard domains. We also provide a temporal overview of how these concepts and concerns have come more and more into the fluvial geomorphologic and riparian ecosystem subject purviews, reflecting the rising focus in these areas and the need for further research on the discussed aspects.
... In the case of the former limitation, the outputs of any channel classification framework are simplifications of reality binned into discrete groups, the number and characteristics of which may be defined a priori by the developer(s). As a result, it is possible that multiple individuals tasked with classification of a similar region will produce schemes with appreciably different reach types and defining characteristics; see, for example, the classification developed by O'Brien et al. (2017) versus that of Montgomery and Buffington (1997) for a geomorphically similar region. In the case of the latter limitation, limited data coverage constrains the range of geology, topography, and climate conditions influencing the resulting morphological diversity in any one study area. ...
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Given the complex array of processes influencing river networks, conceptual frameworks of rivers are critical to our understanding of channel processes and response potential as well as restoration efforts. Yet despite their wide usage, many classifications are based on limited observations over homogenous landscapes, raising questions about their general applicability and quantitative thresholds. Leveraging a large, transect‐based morphological field dataset across California, USA, we use data‐driven methods to evaluate multivariate patterns in channel morphology and linkages with landscape properties considering a diversity of physio‐climatic settings. Emergent patterns highlight the variability in channel form observed across an extensive dataset over heterogeneous but spatially linked watersheds. In general, identified dominant channel attributes and landscape properties align with established channel types defined through expert judgement, but key differences also emerge. Similar to past studies, bed sediment composition and sub‐reach depth variability were discriminating channel attributes. The dominance of landscape properties associated with sediment supply or transport capacity suggests that morphological diversity largely reflects these differences as posited by prior classifications. Results also show some channel forms to be largely independent of valley confinement, with several channel bedforms and dominant grain sizes occurring across valley settings. This data analysis study demonstrates the utility of considering channel reaches and landscapes as multidimensional features to elucidate and test established geomorphic understanding over large field datasets.
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Truths of the Riverscape refer to the use of geomorphological principles to inform sustainable approaches to nature-based river management. Across much of the world a command-and-control philosophy continues to assert human authority over rivers. Tasked to treat rivers as stable and predictable entities, engineers have ‘fixed rivers in place’ and ‘locked them in time’. Unsustainable outcomes ensue. Legacy effects and path dependencies of silenced and strangled (zombified) rivers are difficult and increasingly expensive to address. Nature fights back, and eventually it wins, with disastrous consequences for the environment, society, culture and the economy. The failure to meet the transformative potential of nature-based applications is expressed here as a disregard for ‘Truths of the Riverscape’. The first truth emphasises the imperative to respect diversity , protecting and/or enhancing the distinctive values and attributes of each and every river. A cross-scalar (nested hierarchical) lens underpins practices that ‘know your catchment’. The second truth envisages management practices that work with processes , interpreting the behaviour of each river. This recognises that erosion and deposition are intrinsic functions of a healthy living river—in appropriate places, at appropriate rates. This premise underpins the third truth, assess river condition , highlighting the importance of what to measure and what to measure against in approaches that address the causes rather than the symptoms of unexpected river adjustment. The fourth truth interprets evolutionary trajectory to determine what is realistically achievable in the management of a given river system. Analysis of whether the river sits on a degradation or recovery pathway (i.e., condition is deteriorating or improving), alongside assessment of catchment-specific recovery potential, is used to foresight river futures. Viewed collectively, Truths of the Riverscape provide a coherent platform to develop and apply proactive and precautionary catchment management plans that address concerns for biodiversity loss and climate change adaptation.
A geomorphic unit is a landform that has been created and reworked by a particular set of earth surface processes. Each geomorphic unit has a particular morphology and sediment properties. Characteristic assemblages and patterns of geomorphic units reflect the use of available energy at any particular location in the landscape. In river systems the mix and balance of erosional and depositional processes creates characteristic, and sometimes distinctive, patterns of geomorphic units at the reach scale. As geomorphic units make up all parts of every valley bottom, the analysis of geomorphic units provides a universal resource with which to undertake systematic geomorphic analysis of river systems. In the first instance, this tool helps to interpret river morphodynamics. Particular process‐form associations determine what type of geomorphic unit is found where, how it is formed and/or reworked, and if/how that unit is related to adjacent units in the channel and/or floodplain. From this, particular assemblages of geomorphic units can be used to identify and map reach boundaries along a river course. Each reach has a particular set of process‐form relationships that determine (and/or reflect) the range of behaviour and the capacity for adjustment of that section of river. Framed in a catchment context and in relation to evolutionary trajectory, interpretation of geomorphic unit assemblages, and how they change over time, informs analysis of river condition and the potential for geomorphic recovery of each reach. A scaffolding framework to conduct such analyses and interpretations provides an important bridge between expert manual analysis and machine learning analysis using Big Data, allowing for the identification and interpretation of the distinctive traits of each and every river system.
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With high-resolution topography and imagery in fluvial environments, the potential to quantify physical fish habitat at the reach-scale has never been better. Increased availability of hydraulic, temperature and food availability data and models have given rise to a host of species and life stage specific ecohydraulic fish habitat models ranging from simple, empirical habitat suitability curve driven models, to fuzzy inference systems to fully mechanistic bioenergetic models. However, few examples exist where such information has been upscaled appropriately to evaluate entire fish populations. We present a framework for applying such ecohydraulic models from over 905 sites in 12 sub-watersheds of the Columbia River Basin (USA), to assess status and trends in anadromous salmon populations. We automated the simulation of computational engines to drive the hydraulics, and subsequent ecohydraulic models using cloud computing for over 2075 visits from 2011 to 2015 at 905 sites. We also characterize each site's geomorphic reach type, habitat condition, geomorphic unit assemblage, primary production potential and thermal regime. We then independently produce drainage network-scale models to estimate these same parameters from coarser, remotely sensed data available across entire populations within the Columbia River Basin. These variables give us a basis for imputation of reach-scale capacity estimates across drainage networks. Combining capacity estimates with survival estimates from mark-recapture monitoring allows a more robust quantification of capacity for freshwater life stages (i.e. adult spawning, juvenile rearing) of the anadromous lifecycle. We use these data to drive life cycle models of populations, which not only include the freshwater life stages but also the marine and migration life stages through the hydropower system. More fundamentally, we can begin to look at more realistic, spatially explicit, tributary habitat restoration scenarios to examine whether the enormous financial investment on such restoration actions can help recover these populations or prevent their extinction.
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The shape, size and extent of a valley bottom dictates the form and function of the associated river or stream. Consequently, accurate, watershed-wide delineation of valley bottoms is increasingly recognized as a necessary component of watershed management. While many valley bottom delineation approaches exist, methods that can be effectively applied across entire drainage networks to produce reasonably accurate results are lacking. Most existing tools are designed to work using high resolution topography data (i.e. > 2 m resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM)) and can only be applied over relatively short reach lengths due to computational or data availability limitations. When these precise mapping approaches are applied throughout drainage networks (i.e. 102 to 104 km), the computational techniques often either do not scale, or the algorithms perform inconsistently. Other tools that produce outputs at broader scale extents generally utilize coarser input topographic data to produce more poorly resolved valley bottom approximations. To fill this methodology gap and produce relatively accurate valley bottoms over large areas, we developed an algorithm that accepts terrain data from one to 10 m with slope and valley width parameters that scale based on drainage area, allowing for watershed-scale valley bottom delineation. We packaged this algorithm in the Valley Bottom Extraction Tool (V-BET) as an open-source ArcGIS toolbox for ease of use. To illustrate V-BET's scalability and test the tool's robustness across different physiographic settings, we delineated valley bottoms for the entire perennial drainage network of Utah as well as twelve watersheds across the interior Columbia River Basin (totaling 55 400 km) using 10 m DEMs. We found that even when driven with relatively coarse data (10 m DEMs), V-BET produced a relatively accurate approximation of valley bottoms across the entire watersheds of these diverse physiographic regions.
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Stream classification provides a means to understand the diversity and distribution of channels and floodplains that occur across a landscape while identifying links between geomorphic form and process. Accordingly, stream classification is frequently employed as a watershed planning, management, and restoration tool. At the same time, there has been intense debate and criticism of particular frameworks, on the grounds that these frameworks classify stream reaches based largely on their physical form, rather than direct measurements of their component hydrogeomorphic processes. Despite this debate surrounding stream classifications, and their ongoing use in watershed management, direct comparisons of channel classification frameworks are rare. Here we implement four stream classification frameworks and explore the degree to which each make inferences about hydrogeomorphic process from channel form within the Middle Fork John Day Basin, a watershed of high conservation interest within the Columbia River Basin, U.S.A. We compare the results of the River Styles Framework, Natural Channel Classification, Rosgen Classification System, and a channel form-based statistical classification at 33 field-monitored sites. We found that the four frameworks consistently classified reach types into similar groups based on each reach or segment?s dominant hydrogeomorphic elements. Where classified channel types diverged, differences could be attributed to the (a) spatial scale of input data used, (b) the requisite metrics and their order in completing a framework?s decision tree and/or, (c) whether the framework attempts to classify current or historic channel form. Divergence in framework agreement was also observed at reaches where channel planform was decoupled from valley setting. Overall, the relative agreement between frameworks indicates that criticism of individual classifications for their use of form in grouping stream channels may be overstated. These form-based criticisms may also ignore the geomorphic tenet that channel form reflects formative hydrogeomorphic processes across a given landscape.
A set of maps depicting approved boundaries of, and numerical codes for, river-basin units of the US has been developed by the US Geological Survey. These maps and associated codes provide a standardized base for use by water-resources organizations in locating, storing, retrieving, and exchanging hydrologic data, in indexing and inventorying hydrologic data and information, in cataloging water-data acquisition activities, and in a variety of other applications. -from Authors
In an era of river repair, the concept of recovery enhancement has become central to river management practice. However, until about the early 2000s there were no coherent geomorphic frameworks with which to forecast river recovery potential. While the practical uptake of such frameworks has been slow, and debates continue about what recovery means, some river management agencies in different parts of the world have applied related concepts within catchment scale, process-based approaches to river management. Agencies that make use of recovery enhancement approaches have reframed the way that vision setting, planning, and prioritization are undertaken. In this study, we review river recovery as a principle. We then present, using examples, an updated version of the framework for assessing river recovery and river recovery potential that is embedded in the River Styles framework. Finally, we show how the application of this framework can be used to better inform river management practice. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
Waterfalls create barriers to fish migration, yet hundreds of isolated salmonid populations exist above barriers and have persisted for thousands of years in steep mountainous terrain. Ecological theory indicates that small isolated populations in disturbance-prone landscapes are at greatest risk of extirpation because immigration and recolonization are not possible. On the contrary, many above-barrier populations are currently thriving while their downstream counterparts are dwindling. This quandary led us to explore geomorphic knickpoints as a mechanism for disconnecting hillslope and channel processes by limiting channel incision and decreasing the pace of base-level lowering. Using LiDAR from the Oregon Coast Range, we found gentler channel gradients, wider valleys, lower gradient hillslopes, and less shallow landslide potential in an above-barrier catchment compared to a neighboring catchment devoid of persistent knickpoints. Based on this unique geomorphic template, above-barrier channel networks are less prone to debris flows and other episodic sediment fluxes. These above-barrier catchments also have greater resiliency to flooding, owing to wider valleys with greater floodplain connectivity. Habitat preference models further indicate that salmonid habitat is present in greater quantity and quality in these above-barrier networks. Therefore the paradox of the persistence of small isolated fish populations may be facilitated by a geomorphic mechanism that both limits their connectivity to larger fish populations yet dampens the effect of disturbance by decreasing connections between hillslope and channel processes above geomorphic knickpoints.