Presentation Title

Streams without biology: How physics inadvertently usurped river restoration

Abstract

The foundations of river restoration science rest comfortably in the fields of geology, hydrology, and engineering. Lane’s stream balance equation from the mid-1950s taught us that there is a dynamic equilibrium between the amount of stream flow, the slope of the channel, and the amount and caliber of sediment. The Manning’s equation, circa 1890, still influences most stream restoration projects designed today. Inherent in that famous equation are the variables of slope and hydraulic radius, and the ever-confounding roughness coefficient (n). Biology, while completely absent in the stream balance equation, makes a cameo appearance in the Manning’s equation buried in the roughness factor. Arguably, two of the most influential equations that have shaped contemporary river restoration design left out the power of biology. This would not be a problem if we were designing and implementing river restoration in a Precambrian world, a world where green algae and fungi are the major biological players, but in today’s environment, biology cannot be ignored. This talk will provide an overview of, and underpinning science for, the Stream Evolution Triangle (SET) in which biology is included on an equal basis with geology and hydrology as a driver of stream morphology. The SET broadly integrates concepts geology, hydrology, and biology, and includes improved understanding of potential morphological “stream states” at the reach scale following both natural and anthropogenic disturbances.

Subjects

Geology, Hydrology, Habitat restoration

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Streams without biology: How physics inadvertently usurped river restoration

The foundations of river restoration science rest comfortably in the fields of geology, hydrology, and engineering. Lane’s stream balance equation from the mid-1950s taught us that there is a dynamic equilibrium between the amount of stream flow, the slope of the channel, and the amount and caliber of sediment. The Manning’s equation, circa 1890, still influences most stream restoration projects designed today. Inherent in that famous equation are the variables of slope and hydraulic radius, and the ever-confounding roughness coefficient (n). Biology, while completely absent in the stream balance equation, makes a cameo appearance in the Manning’s equation buried in the roughness factor. Arguably, two of the most influential equations that have shaped contemporary river restoration design left out the power of biology. This would not be a problem if we were designing and implementing river restoration in a Precambrian world, a world where green algae and fungi are the major biological players, but in today’s environment, biology cannot be ignored. This talk will provide an overview of, and underpinning science for, the Stream Evolution Triangle (SET) in which biology is included on an equal basis with geology and hydrology as a driver of stream morphology. The SET broadly integrates concepts geology, hydrology, and biology, and includes improved understanding of potential morphological “stream states” at the reach scale following both natural and anthropogenic disturbances.