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Catastrophic Human-Induced Change in Stream-Channel Planform and Geometry in an Agricultural Watershed, Illinois, USA

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The adverse effects of channelization on the environmental quality of streams and rivers at a global scale are well documented, but the magnitude of human-induced changes in river systems relative to the efficacy of geomorphological processes has yet to be ascertained quantitatively. Stream channelization is a common feature of the agricultural landscapes of the midwestern United States. This study shows that channelization in the Embarras River basin of east central Illinois has altered stream channel and planform geometries to an extent that exceeds background rates of change for unchannelized reaches by one to two orders of magnitude. The average rate of change in channel position resulting from stream responses to channelization also greatly exceeds the average rate of change for unchannelized reaches, yet the spatial extent of stream adjustments to channelization is limited, and most straightened or relocated channels persist in their altered state for decades following channelization.

Keywords: channelization; fluvial geomorphology; human impacts; magnitude frequency

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Missouri 2: Department of Geography, University of Illinois

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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