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Geomorphic Analysis of River Systems: An Approach to Reading the Landscape

Geomorphic Analysis of River Systems: An Approach to Reading the Landscape

Kirstie A. Fryirs, Gary J. Brierley

ISBN: 978-1-118-30544-7 September 2012 Wiley-Blackwell 362 Pages




Filling a niche in the geomorphology teaching market, this introductory book is built around a 12 week course in fluvial geomorphology.

‘Reading  the landscape’ entails making sense of what a riverscape looks like, how it works, how it has evolved over time, and how alterations to one part of a catchment may have secondary consequences elsewhere, over different timeframes. These place-based field analyses are framed within their topographic, climatic and environmental context. Issues and principles presented in the first part of this book provide foundational understandings that underpin the approach to reading the landscape that is presented in the second half of the book. In reading the landscape, detective-style investigations and interpretations are tied to theoretical and conceptual principles to generate catchment-specific analyses of river character, behaviour and evolution, including responses to human disturbance. 

This book has been constructed as an introductory text on river landscapes, providing a bridge and/or companion to quantitatively-framed or modelled approaches to landscape analysis that are addressed elsewhere. Key principles outlined in the book emphasise the importance of complexity, contingency and emergence in interpreting the character, behaviour and evolution of any given system.

The target audience is second and third year undergraduate students in geomorphology, hydrology, earth science and environmental science, as well as river practitioners who use geomorphic understandings to guide scientific and/or management applications.

The primary focus of Kirstie and Gary’s research and teaching entails the use of geomorphic principles as a tool with which to develop coherent scientific understandings of river systems, and the application of these understandings in management practice. Kirstie and Gary are co-developers of the River Styles® Framework and Short Course that is widely used in river management, decision-making and training.

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Preface xi

Acknowledgements xiv

1 Geomorphic analysis of river systems: an approach to reading the landscape 1

Introduction 1

How is geomorphology useful? 2

Geomorphic analysis of river systems: our approach to reading the landscape 3

Key messages from this chapter 7

2 Key concepts in river geomorphology 9

Introduction 9

Spatial considerations in reading the landscape 9

Catchment linkages and (dis)connectivity 14

Conceptualisation of time 17

Differentiating behaviour from change 21

Disturbance events 22

Magnitude–frequency relationships in river systems 23

River sensitivity and resilience 25

Catchment-specifi c analysis of river systems: combining spatial and temporal concepts 26

Conclusion 27

Key messages from this chapter 27

3 Catchment-scale controls on river geomorphology 29

Introduction: what is a catchment? 29

Process zones in catchments: sediment source, transfer and accumulation zones 29

Longitudinal profi les of rivers 31

Geomorphic transitions along river longitudinal profi les 32

Catchment morphometrics as controls on river character and behaviour 34

Geologic controls on drainage network form, and river character and behaviour 37

The infl uence of catchment confi guration upon fl ow and sediment fl ux 41

Conclusion 42

Key messages from this chapter 42

4 Catchment hydrology 44

Introduction: what is hydrology? 44

The hydrological cycle 44

Operation of the hydrological cycle 45

Runoff generation 47

Groundwater fl ows 49

Catchment-scale runoff and discharge generation models 50

Channel initiation 51

Gully and channel formation 51

Flow regimes of perennial, intermittent and ephemeral rivers 53

Discharge and the magnitude/frequency of fl ow in river systems 54

Flood stages and hydrographs 56

Analysis of hydrograph shape 58

Discharge measurement 59

Flow frequency 60

Flow variability 61

Conclusion 62

Key messages from this chapter 62

5 Impelling and resisting forces in river systems 65

Introduction 65

Impelling and resisting forces and Lane’s balance of erosion and deposition in channels 65

Mechanics of fl uid fl ow 67

Impelling forces in river channels 68

Resisting forces in channels 70

Vegetation and wood as resistance elements in river systems 72

Manning’s n as a unifying roughness parameter 75

The balance of impelling and resisting forces along longitudinal profi les 77

Conclusion 79

Key messages from this chapter 79

6 Sediment movement and deposition in river systems 81

Introduction 81

Grain size (sediment calibre) and defi nitions of bedload, mixed load and suspended load in rivers 81

Phases of sediment movement along rivers: the Hjulström diagram 84

Entrainment of sediment in river channels 85

Transport of sediment in river channels 88

Material properties that affect sediment movement in river systems 93

Deposition in river systems 102

Interpreting sediment sequences as a tool to read the landscape 104

Conclusion 114

Key messages from this chapter 114

7 Channel geometry 116

Introduction 116

Bed and bank processes that infl uence channel shape 117

Channel shape: putting the bed and banks together 124

Hydraulic geometry and adjustments to channel morphology 127

Conclusion 131

Key messages from this chapter 131

8 Instream geomorphic units 132

Introduction 132

Categories of geomorphic units and measures used to identify them in the fi eld 133

Process–form associations of instream geomorphic units 134

Unit and compound instream geomorphic units 151

Forced instream geomorphic units 151

The continuum of instream geomorphic units and transformations in type 152

Conclusion 153

Key messages from this chapter 154

9 Floodplain forms and processes 155

Introduction 155

Floodplain formation processes 156

Floodplain reworking processes 159

Floodplain geomorphic units 164

The energy spectrum of fl oodplain types 171

Conclusion 172

Key messages from this chapter 173

10 River diversity 174

Introduction 174

Framing rivers as assemblages of cross-scalar features 176

Defi ning reach boundaries 176

The continuum of river form 177

The spectrum of river diversity 178

Discriminating among river types 192

The River Styles framework 199

Tips for reading the landscape to interpret river diversity 201

Conclusion 203

Key messages from this chapter 203

11 River behaviour 205

Introduction 205

River behaviour versus river change 206

Dimensions of river adjustment 207

Natural capacity for adjustment of differing river types 209

Controls on the natural capacity for adjustment of different river types 210

Interpreting the behavioural regime of different river types by reading the landscape 212

Examples of behavioural regimes for differing types of rivers 214

Analysis of river behaviour using the river evolution diagram 222

Predicting river responses to altered fl ux boundary conditions 229

Tips for reading the landscape to interpret river behaviour 231

Conclusion 233

Key messages from this chapter 233

12 River evolution 235

Introduction 235

Timescales of river adjustment 236

Pathways and rates of river evolution 237

Geologic controls upon river evolution 239

Climatic infl uences on river evolution 241

Landscape memory: imprint of past geologic and climatic conditions upon contemporary river

processes, forms and evolutionary trajectory 244

River responses to altered boundary conditions 246

Linking river evolution to the natural capacity for adjustment: adding river change to the river

evolution diagram 255

Reading the landscape to interpret river evolution 261

Tips for reading the landscape to interpret river evolution 265

Conclusion 267

Key messages from this chapter 267

13 Human impacts on river systems 269

Introduction 269

Historical overview of human impacts upon river systems 270

Direct and indirect forms of human disturbance to rivers 272

Conceptualising river responses to human disturbance: adding human disturbance to the river

evolution diagram 282

Assessing geomorphic river condition and recovery potential 290

Tips for reading the landscape to interpret human impacts on river systems 293

Conclusion 295

Key messages from this chapter 295

14 Sediment fl ux at the catchment scale: source-to-sink relationships 297

Introduction 297

Conceptualising sediment fl ux through catchments 297

Techniques used to construct a sediment budget 298

Controls upon sediment fl ux 302

Analysis of sediment fl ux across various scales 309

Tips for reading the landscape to interpret catchment-scale sediment fl ux 315

Conclusion 318

Key messages from this chapter 318

15 The usefulness of river geomorphology: reading the landscape in practice 320

Introduction 320

Respect diversity 321

Understand system dynamics and evolution 321

Know your catchment 322

Closing comment: how the book should be used 323

References 324

Selected readings 328

Index 335

The color plate section can be found between pages 194 and 195

“Recommended readings for each chapter complement the bibliography and enhance the book's overall value. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals/practitioners.”  (Choice, 1 August 2013)