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Vision for a worldwide fluvial-sediment information network

January 1, 2007

The nations of the world suffer both from the deleterious effects of some natural and human-altered fluxes of fluvial sediment and a lack of consistent and reliable information on the temporal and spatial occurrence of fluvial sediments. Decades ago, this difficulty was unavoidable due to a lack of understanding of the magnitude and scope of environmental influences exerted by fluvial sediment coupled with a dearth of tools for monitoring and studying the data. Such is no longer the case.


Fluvial sediment has a broad influence on the environment and humanity. Data needs that were once limited primarily to reservoir and channel maintenance now include issues associated with public water supply; contaminated sediment management; productivity of agricultural lands; stream restoration and watershed health; in-stream biotic stability; post-wildfire channel morphology; dam decommissioning, rehabilitation, or removal; and legal requirements for sediment management (Gray and Glysson, 2005).


The adverse effects of poorly managed or unmanaged sediment movement related to these and other issues are well-known qualitatively, and in some cases quantitatively. For example, physical, chemical, and biological damages attributable to fluvial sediment in North America alone are now estimated to range between $20 billion and $50 billion annually (Pimental and others, 1995; Osterkamp and others, 1998; 2004). Capabilities for monitoring, analyzing, storing, and sharing fluvial-sediment data have been developed and, in many cases, are sufficiently mature for consideration for global utilization. Hence, there is not only a strong and expanding need for a global effort to gauge and understand fluvial-sediment characteristics and processes better, but the knowledge and tools to achieve these ends are largely available and ready for their applicability to be evaluated. Given the increasing importance of erosion and sediment processes for water-resources management, an International Sedimentation Initiative (ISI, 2007a), under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s International Hydrologic Programme (IHP, 2007) was adopted in 2004. The ISI, the focus of which is on sustainable water-resources management on the global scale, features six major activities and projects, which are listed as part of the section entitled, “Relation of the WoFSIN concept to the thrusts of the International Sedimentation Initiative,” that precedes the “Conclusions” section of this paper.


Based on the need for more, and more consistent and reliable fluvial-sediment information and on the existence of the ISI and other international and national sediment programs, we envision the need for a Worldwide Fluvial Sediment-Information Network (WoFSIN) with a focus on data acquisition, storage, and dissemination globally. Envisioned components of a WoFSIN, administered largely via the Internet and relying mostly on the benefits derived from existing resources and programs, follow that summary. The goal of the WoFSIN is to maximize the availability and usefulness of the world’s historical and current fluvial-sediment and ancillary data through collaboration with existing programs so as to require few additional resources in the long-term. Thus, the WoFSIN concept was developed recognizing that informed resource management is predicated on the availability of adequate and reliable information.


The WoFSIN is described in the ensuing sections in stand-alone fashion, followed by a section that describes the complementary aspects of the WoFSIN and the International Sediment Initiative. Thus, our first objective is to describe the fundamental components of a WoFSIN. Our second objective is to identify overlap or gaps between the WoFSIN and ISI concepts that might be useful in refining the ISI’s ability to meet its global mission to develop decision support for sediment management at the global scale more fully, cost-effectively, and (or) with enhanced quality.

Publication Year 2007
Title Vision for a worldwide fluvial-sediment information network
Authors J. R. Gray, W. R. Osterkamp
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70120670
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Office of Surface Water