Visioning channel evolution for river management: toward a functional decision support framework

P. W. Downs, P. J. Soar, A. L. Cox, D. S. Biedenharn, T. A. Dahl, C. P. Haring, C. R. Thorne

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Improvements in simulating and communicating the evolutionary trajectory of river morphology in response to environmental forcing over multi-decadal timeframes would foreshadow the development of “foresight competency” in river management, whereby resource managers could strategically plan toward the most preferred of several plausible futures. Of the six steps in foresight competency, visioning, which involves translating scientific forecasts into a format useable by resource managers via a user-friendly and interactive decision support tool that supports transparent decision-making, is the least well developed. The approach requires converting forecasting model outputs into metrics of channel evolution that highlight transitions either within or between channel morphology states. Here, seven process-based state transition metrics are proposed covering channel planform, morphological stability, corridor belt width, floodplain connectivity, bank erosion rate, bedform habitat diversity, and ecohydraulic diversity. To aid decision support, the metrics are converted into graphical indicators that are intuitive for management use and assembled into several prototype dashboard-style graphical user interfaces designed to facilitate interactivity. A proof-of-concept illustration is provided and priorities in development toward a fully operational decision support tool are discussed. Such developments are critical in ensuring the practical relevance of geomorphology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJAWRA: Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Early online date17 Dec 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 17 Dec 2023


  • river management
  • channel evolution
  • decision support
  • visioning

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