Environmental Management

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 799–807 | Cite as

Impact of riverine wetlands construction and operation on stream channel stability: Conceptual framework for geomorphic assessment

  • Bruce L. Rhoads
  • Michael V. Miller


Wetland conservation is a critical environmental management issue. An emerging approach to this issue involves the construction of wetland environments. Because our understanding of wetlands function is incomplete and such projects must be monitored closely because they may have unanticipated impacts on ecological, hydrological, and geomorphological systems. Assessment of project-related impacts on stream channel stability is an important component of riverine wetlands construction and operation because enhanced erosion or deposition associated with unstable rivers can lead to loss of property, reductions in channel capacity, and degradation of water quality, aquatic habitat, and riparian aesthetics.

The water/sediment budget concept provides a scientific framework for evaluating the impact of riverine wetlands construction and operation on stream channel stability. This concept is based on the principle of conservation of mass, i.e., the total amount of water and sediment moving through a specific reach of river must be conserved. Long-term measurements of channel sediment storage and other water/sediment budget components provide the basis for distinguishing between project-related impacts and those resulting from other causes. Changes in channel sediment storage that occur as a result of changes in internal inputs of water or sediment signal a project-related impact, whereas those associated with changes in upstream or tributary inputs denote a change in environmental conditions elsewhere in the watershed. A geomorphic assessment program based on the water/sediment budget concept has been implemented at the site of the Des Plaines River Wetlands Demonstration Projection near Chicago, Illinois, USA. Channel sediment storage changed little during the initial construction phase, suggesting that thus far the project has not affected stream channel stability.

Key words

Constructed wetlands Fluvial geomorphology Water/sediment budget 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce L. Rhoads
    • 1
  • Michael V. Miller
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Illinois State Geological SurveyChampaignUSA

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