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Geomorphic classification of rivers: An updated review

Formally Refereed
Authors: John M. Buffington, David R. Montgomery
Year: 2021
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
Source: Treatise on Geomorphology. 2: 1-47.


Environmental legislation beginning in the 1960s, coupled with a growing awareness of human disturbance to rivers worldwide (Schumm, 1969, 1977; Williams, 1978; Sedell and Froggatt, 1984; Petts et al., 1989; Graf, 1999; Collins et al., 2003; Surian and Rinaldi, 2003; Nilsson et al., 2005; Chin, 2006; Wohl and Merritts, 2007; Walter and Merritts, 2008; Comiti, 2012; Rubin et al., 2015; Wohl, 2019), have fostered increased collaboration among scientists, land managers, and stakeholders to better understand, monitor, and restore riverine ecosystems. The additional concern over climate change (IPCC, 2021) and the need for securing supplies of clean water for our burgeoning world population (Revenga et al., 2000) 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 (e.g., Thorne et al., 1997; Kondolf et al., 2001; Downs and Gregory, 2004; Brierley and Fryirs, 2005; Simon et al., 2011b). Channel classification is one tool that is used to address these needs. This article reviews the purposes of geomorphic channel classification, the different types of classifications that have been developed, their use, compatibility, and popularity, and concludes with a look at future needs and directions for channel classification.


channel classification, channel response, land management, landscape disturbance, stream restoration, stream type


Buffington, John M.; Montgomery, David R. 2021. Geomorphic classification of rivers: An updated review. Treatise on Geomorphology. 2: 1-47.