The Upstream Extent of a River Network: A Review of Scientific Knowledge of Channel Heads
COLORADO STATE UNIV FORT COLLINS FORT COLLINS United States
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A river channel is a linear feature with definable bed and banks created by erosion of water concentrated into persistent flow paths. A river starts at the channel head, which is the upstream-most point of concentrated water flow and sediment transport between definable banks that are spatially continuous downslope. The locations of individual channel heads are difficult to predict because of hillslope-scale differences in gradient, infiltration capacity, porosity and permeability, and cohesion, each of which influences flow paths and erodibility of near-surface materials. Understanding the state of knowledge regarding the initiation point of channels can be useful in a management context when assessing what features on the landscape constitute river channels. Therefore, the primary objective of this report is to concisely summarize the existing state of scientific knowledge regarding where river channels and channel networks begin in the landscape. The report draws on published studies from diverse regions within the United States and around the world but focuses on research summarized in English. This report introduces terms, reviews the processes related to channel initiation in different landscape settings, discusses field and remote identification of channel heads, and outlines the research needs for channel-head identification and for improving channel delineation.
- Hydrology, Limnology and Potamology