Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Viewing river corridors through the lens of critical zone science

May 31, 2023

River corridors integrate the active channels, geomorphic floodplain and riparian areas, and hyporheic zone while receiving inputs from the uplands and groundwater and exchanging mass and energy with the atmosphere. Here, we trace the development of the contemporary understanding of river corridors from the perspectives of geomorphology, hydrology, ecology, and biogeochemistry. We then summarize contemporary models of the river corridor along multiple axes including dimensions of space and time, disturbance regimes, connectivity, hydrochemical exchange flows, and legacy effects of humans. We explore how river corridor science can be advanced with a critical zone framework by moving beyond a primary focus on discharge-based controls toward multi-factor models that identify dominant processes and thresholds that make predictions that serve society. We then identify opportunities to investigate relationships between large-scale spatial gradients and local-scale processes, embrace that riverine processes are temporally variable and interacting, acknowledge that river corridor processes and services do not respect disciplinary boundaries and increasingly need integrated multidisciplinary investigations, and explicitly integrate humans and their management actions as part of the river corridor. We intend our review to stimulate cross-disciplinary research while recognizing that river corridors occupy a unique position on the Earth's surface.

Publication Year 2023
Title Viewing river corridors through the lens of critical zone science
DOI 10.3389/frwa.2023.1147561
Authors Adam Wymore, Adam Ward, Ellen Wohl, Judson Harvey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Water
Index ID 70245770
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division