Research Overview

“River channels are dynamic, self-formed systems that naturally adapt their shape in response to changes in flow and sediment transport over time…”

lidar_dragonWhat if average annual flow in a river was 3 times greater, base flow was 5 times greater and storm flows were twice as large as they were historically? Such changes have been observed in the Minnesota River…

  • Did higher storm flows cause the observed 10-fold increase in suspended sediment?
  • How do these changes in hydrology and sediment load alter the river channel shape?
  • How do these changes impact water quality and aquatic life such as fish and mussels?
  • Where along the river will these changes produce the biggest effects?

Landscapes and river networks are complex systems to manage because they have many interacting components that change dramatically in time and space. For example, increased rainfall and more efficient drainage of the landscape can both cause higher flows in the rivers. The goal of the REACH project is to develop a predictive framework to identify processes and areas in the landscape that are most vulnerable to change.  To develop this framework, REACH researchers are testing the hypothesis that areas undergoing high rates of natural change are most vulnerable to human or climate change. Specific REACH activities include:

  1. Developing a process-based integrated water-sediment routing model for the entire Minnesota River Basin.
  2. Quantifying biological integrity and functioning under changing hydro-geomorphic conditions.
  3. Enabling optimized conservation efforts by incorporating human land and water management choices into an economic-ecological analysis.

For more details see our publications page.