Morphological assessment

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Morphological assessment


Hydromorphological assessment methods

Brief description

Methods for morphological assessment differ from physical habitat assessment methods as they have a broader geomorphological perspective, and give a greater consideration to physical processes (e.g. hydrological and sediment continuity, sediment transport, erosion, channel adjustments) and alterations derived from human pressures. They are generally applied at the reach and catchment scales. They are process-oriented and also generally evaluate the river hydromorphological conditions at a greater temporal scale. We reviewed 23 methods in total (12 for European countries and 11 for non-European countries) (Table 1).

Strengths, limitations and gaps

Morphological assessment methods take into account physical processes at appropriate spatial and temporal scales. The main limitation is linked to the complexity in assessing and understanding physical processes; indeed these methods need to be applied by specialists and the assessment is often limited by data availability (e.g. historical photo and maps, GIS data etc.).

Other relevant information

Summary tables of analyzed morphological assessement methods are available here:

- For European countries: File:3 EU.pdf

- For non European countries: File:3 nonEU.pdf

In the table we recorded whether the analyzed method considers or not a specific feature. Three options were considered: presence (tick), absence ( ), and probably assessed (PA), the latter indicating when there is an uncertainty concerning whether the feature is collected and/or when the feature may be indirectly obtained.

Table 1 lists the key and the analyzed references for methods of morpholgical assessment.

Table 1. Analyzed references for morphological assessment methods.


Brierley G.J. and Fryirs K. (2000): River styles, a geomorphic approach to catchment characterization: Implications for river rehabilitation in Bega catchment, New South Wales, Australia. Environmental Management 25(6):661-679.

Brierley GJ. and Fryirs K.A. (2005): Geomorphology and river management: applications of the river style framework. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 398 p.

Chandesris A., Mengin N., Malavoi J.R., Souchon Y., Pella H. and Wasson J.G. (2008): Systeme Relationnel d’Audit de l’Hydromorphologie des Cours d’Eau. Principes et methodes, v3.1. Cemagref, Lyon Cedex, 81 p.

Fryirs K. (2003): Guiding principles for assessing geomorphic river condition: application of a framework in the Bega catchment, South Coast, New South Wales, Australia. Catena 53:17-52.

Harrelson C.C., Rawlins C.L. and Potyondy J.P. (1994): Stream Channel Reference Sites: An Illustrated Guide to Field Technique. General Technical Report RM–245. USDA, 67 p.

Kleynhans C.J., Louw M.D., Thirion C., Rossouw N.J. and Rowntree K. M. (2005): River EcoClassification: Manual for EcoStatus determination (Version 1), Joint Water Research Commission and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (South Africa). Report No. KV 168/05, 210 p.

Langhammer J. (2007): HEM Hydroekologický monitoring. Metodika pro monitoring hydromorfologických ukazatelů ekologické kvality vodních toků. PřF UK, Praha, 47 pp. In: Langhammer J. (2009): Applicability of hydromorphological monitoring data to locate flood risk reduction measures: Blanice River basin, Czech Republic. Environmental Monitoring Assessment 152(1):379-392.

Matoušková M., Weiss A. and Matschullat J. (2010): Ecological Survey of River Habitat Diversity: Trans-Boundary Cooperation in the Ore Mountains (Krusne Hory, Erzgebirge). Geografie-Prague 115(3):284-307.

Mc Ginnity P.M., Mills P., Roche W. and Müller M. (2005): A desk study to determine a methodology for the monitoring of the 'morphological conditions’ of Irish Rivers. Final Report. Environmental RTDI Programme 2000-2006. Central Fisheries Board - Compass Informatics - EPA. 237 p.

(MDEP) Maine Department of Environmental Protection (2009) : Stream Survey Manual. Volume I and II (and Appendices). Maine Stream Team Program of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

(MOE) Ministry of the Environment (1999): Revised Stormwater Management Guidelines Draft Report. Ontario Ministry of the Environment. In: Central Lake Ontario Conservation (CLOC) (2011): Black/Harmony/Farewell Creek Watershed. Existing conditions report. Chapter 13 – Fluvial Geomorphology. Durham Region, 41 p.

Munné A., Solà C. and Pagés J. (2006): HIDRI: Protocolo para la valoración de la calidad hidromorfológica de los ríos. Barcelona, Agència Catalana de l’Aigua, 164 p.

Ollero A., Ballarín D., Díaz E., Mora D., Sánchez M., Acín V., Echeverría M.T., Granado D., Ibisate A., Sánchez L. and Sánchez N. (2007): Un indice hidrogeomorfologico (IHG) para la evaluacion del estado ecologico de sistemas fluviales. Geographicalia 52:113-141.

Ollero, A., Ibisate A., Gonzalo L.E., Acin V., Ballarin D., Diaz E., Domenech S., Gimeno M., Granado D., Horacio J., Mora D. and Sanchez M. (2011): The IHG index for hydromorphological quality assessment of rivers and streams: updated version. Limnetica 30(2):255-261.

(OWEB) Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (2000): Oregon Watershed Assessment Manual, 583 p.

du Preez L. and Rowntree K.M. (2006): Assessment of the geomorphological reference condition: an application for resource directed measures and the river health programme. Water Research Commission, Report No 1306/1/06, 129 p.

Rinaldi M., Surian N., Comiti F. and Bussettini M. (2013): A method for the assessment and analysis of the hydromorphological condition of Italian streams: The Morphological Quality Index (MQI). Geomorphology 180-181:96-108, doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.09.009.

Rosgen D.L. (1996): Applied River Morphology. Wildland Hydrology, Pagosa Springs, CO, 390 p. In: Rosgen D. (2006): The Natural Channel Design Method for River Restoration (+ 1996_StreamNotesReview). Wildland Hydrology, 12 p.

Rosgen D.L. (2006): A Watershed Assessment for River Stability and Sediment Supply (WARSSS). Wildland Hydrology Books, Fort Collins, CO.

Rowntree K.M. and Ziervogel R.A. (1999): Development of an Index of stream Geomorphologyfor the Assessment of River Health. Nationl Aquatic Ecosystem Biomonitoring Programme, NAEBP. Report Series No 7. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pretoria, South Africa.

Rowntree K.M. and Wadeson R.A. (2000): Field manual for channel classification and condition assessment Institute for Water Quality Studies, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pretoria, South Africa.

Schumm S.A., Harvey M.D. and Watson C.C. (1984): Incised Channels: Morphology, Dynamics and Control. Water Resources Publications, Littleton, Colorado, pp. 200. In: Darby S.E. and Simon A. (eds.) (1999): Incised River Channels: processe, forms, engineering and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2:19-33.

Sear D. A., Hill C.T. and Downes R. H. E. (2008): Geomorphological assessment of riverine SSSIs for the strategic planning of physical restoration. Report NERR013. Natural England Research, 82 p.

(SEPA) Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (2006): Trialling of MImAS and proposed Environmental Standards. Final Report WFD49. Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum For Environmental Research (SNIFFER), 64 p.

Simon A. and Downs P.W. (1995): An interdisciplinary approach to evaluation of potential instability in alluvial channels. Geomorphology 12(3):215-232. In: Heeren D.M., Mittelstet A.R., Fox G.A., Storm D.E., Al-Madhhachi A.T., Midgley T.L., Stringer A.F., Stunkel K.B., Tejral R.D. (2012): Using Rapid Geomorphic Assessments to assess streambank stability in Oklahoma Ozark streams. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers 55(3):957-968.

Simon A. and Hupp C.R. (1986): Channel Evolution in Modified Tennessee Channels. Proceedings of the Fourth Interagency Sedimentation Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, pp. 2, 5-71 to 5-82. In: Darby S.E. and Simon A. (eds.) (1999): Incised River Channels: processe, forms, engineering and management. John Wiley & Sons, 1:3-18.

Simon A., Doyle M., Kondolf M., Shields F.D., Rhoads B. and McPhillips M. (2007): Critical evaluation of how the Rosgen classification and associated "natural channel design" methods fail to integrate and quantify fluvial processes and channel response. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 43(5):1117-1131.

Starr R.R. (2009): Stream Assessment Protocol. Anne Arundel County, Maryland - US Fish & Wildlife Service, 83 p.

Thorne C.R. (1998): Geormophological stream reconnaissance handbook. Wiley Chichester, 133 pp.

UK Technical Advisory Group on the WFD (UKTAG) (2008): UK Environmental Standards and Conditions (Phase 1) – Final. Vol. SR1-2006, 73 p.

Valette L., Chandesris A., Malavoi J.R., Suchon Y. and Willet B. (2010): Protocole AURAH-CE AUdit RApide de l’Hydromorphologie des Cours d’Eau. Méthode de recueil d’informations complémentaires à SYRAH-CE sur le terrain, Pôle hydroécologie des cours d’eau - Onema/Cemagref, 35 p.

(VANR) Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (2010): Vermont Stream Geomorphic Assessment. Appendix A – Field Forms. Waterbury, 17 p.

Wyżga B., Amirowicz A., Radecki-Pawlik A. and Zawiejska J. (2009): Hydromorphological conditions, potential fish habitats and the fish community in a mountain river subjected to variable human impacts, the Czarny Dunajec, Polish Carpathians. River Research and Applications 25(5):517-536.

Wyżga B., Zawiejska J., Radecki-Pawlik A. and Hajdukiewicz1 H. (2012): Environmental change, hydromorphological reference conditions and the restoration of Polish Carpathian rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.3273.