Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 35–55 | Cite as

Indicators of river system hydromorphological character and dynamics: understanding current conditions and guiding sustainable river management

  • M. González del TánagoEmail author
  • A. M. Gurnell
  • B. Belletti
  • D. García de Jalón
Research Article


A set of multi-scale, process-based hydromorphological indicators of river character and dynamics has been developed to support river management and restoration activities. Indicators are selected to represent key hydromorphological processes at each spatial scale, i.e., catchment, landscape unit, river segment, river reach. Their evaluation allows identification of the cascade of these processes through the spatial units and the historical changes in their propagation as a consequence of natural or human induced hydromorphological changes. The approach is deliberately open-ended so that it can be adapted to local environmental conditions and management, and it can make the most effective use of available data sets. The indicators support assessments of the current condition of the river and its catchment; past changes within the catchment and their impacts on river reaches. Therefore, they represent a sound foundation for assessing the way the catchment to reach scale units and the geomorphic units within reaches may respond to future natural changes or human interventions. The procedure is illustrated using the example of the river Frome (UK).


Indicators Hydromorphology Fluvial processes River assessment River management Scale 



The work leading to this paper received funding from the EU’s FP7 programme under Grant Agreement No. 282656 (REFORM). The Indicators were developed within the context of REFORM deliverable D2.1, therefore all partners involved in this deliverable contributed to some extent to their discussion and development. We acknowledge Vanesa Martínez-Fernández for her assistance in creating Fig. 1.


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© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.E.T.S. Ingeniería de Montes, Forestal y del Medio NaturalUniversidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.School of GeographyQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of FlorenceFirenceItaly

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