Fluvial geomorphology studies

Science Center Objects

Fluvial geomorphology studies provide an understanding of the physical processes responsible for shaping the character of streams and their riparian zones across both glaciatied and unglaciated regions of Wisconsin and the midwestern U.S.

Photograph of an eroding bluff on North Fish Creek
Photographs of the channel and bluff at North Fish Creek, Wis.

Fluvial geomorphology studies provide an understanding of the physical processes responsible for shaping the character of streams and their riparian zones across both glaciated and unglaciated regions of Wisconsin and the midwestern U.S. These studies usually involve stream assessment and monitoring components that range of spatial scales from a particular reach to entire watersheds. Time scales may range from a couple of years to more than several hundred years.

Fluvial geomorphology studies at the WI WSC are geared toward understanding the reasons for and magnitude of channel changes that result in episodes of erosion and deposition, whether it be watershed-wide urbanization, climate-driven increases in floods, historical channelization, or riparian cattle grazing.

Over the last decade, most of our studies have focused on monitoring and evaluating stream restoration or erosion-control techniques, land conservation practices, or aquatic habitat improvements. In addition, we have also conducted floodplain sedimentation and stratigraphy studies, surveys of geomorphic distribution of legacy contaminants in impoundments, sediment budgets, and sediment source studies.

Photograph of a cow using a streambank for scratching
Cattle that cross streams freely can cause bank erosion by trodding. In addition, cattle often use raw streambanks for scratching, causing additional loss of vegetation.