As a science-based nonprofit, the Ausable River Association uses specific technical terms related to our programs. Some of these terms can be confusing to those unfamiliar with river restoration, water quality monitoring, and other science-based practices. Below is a list of common terms used in reference to Ausable River Association work, please contact us if you have additional questions.
Adjustment process -- Any type of change that is underway due to natural causes or human activity that has or will result in a change to the valley, floodplain, and/or channel condition (e.g., vertical, lateral, or channel plan form adjustment processes).
Aggradation -- A progressive buildup or raising of the channel bed and floodplain due to sediment deposition. The geologic process by which streambeds are raised in elevation and floodplains are formed. Aggradation indicates that stream discharge and/or bed-load characteristics are changing. Opposite of degradation.
Algae -- Microscopic plants that grow in sunlit water containing phosphates, nitrates, and other nutrients. Algae, like all aquatic plants, add oxygen to the water and are important in the fish food chain.
Alluvial -- Deposited by running water.
Alluvium -- A general term for detrital deposits make by streams on riverbeds, floodplains, and alluvial fans; esp. a deposit of silt or silty clay laid down during time of flood. The term applies to stream deposits of recent time. It does not include subaqueous sediments of seas or lakes.
Anadromous -- Pertaining to fish that spend a part of their life cycle in the sea and return to freshwater streams to spawn.
Analyte -- A substance whose chemical constituents are being identified and measured.
Aquatic ecosystem -- Any body of water, such as a stream, lake, or estuary, and all organisms and nonliving components within it, functioning as a natural system.
Armoring -- A natural process where an erosion-resistant layer of relatively large particles is established on the surface of the streambed through removal of finer particles by stream flow. A properly armored streambed generally resists movement of bed material at discharges up to approximately 3/4 bank-full depth. Augmentation (of stream flow) – Increasing flow under normal conditions, by releasing storage water from reservoirs.
Avulsion -- A change in channel course that occurs when a stream suddenly breaks through its banks, typically bisecting an overextended meander arc.
Backwater -- (1) A small, generally shallow body of water attached to the main channel, with little or no current of its own, or (2) A condition in subcritical flow where the water surface elevation is raised by downstream flow impediments.
Backwater pool -- A pool that formed as a result of an obstruction like a large tree, weir, dam, or boulder.
Bank erosion curve -- A graph that provides annual lateral erosion rates for combinations of near bank shear stresses and bank erodibility conditions. Bank erosion hazard index -- A measure of bank erodibility that uses bank height, bankfull height, root depth, root density, bank angle, surface protection, bank materials, and bank stratification.
Bank erosion hazard index -- A measure of bank erodibility that uses bank height, bankfull height, root depth, root density, bank angle, surface protection, bank materials, and bank stratification.
Bank height ratio -- A measure of the vertical containment of the stream represented by the ratio of low bank height to maximum depth.
Bank stability -- The ability of a streambank to counteract erosion or gravity forces.
Bankfull -- The discharge(s) that is responsible for maintaining the stream channel dimension, pattern, and profile.
Bankfull channel depth -- The maximum depth of a channel within a riffle segment when flowing at a bank-full discharge.
Bankfull channel width -- The top surface width of a stream channel when flowing at a bank-full discharge.
Bankfull discharge -- The stream discharge corresponding to the water stage that overtops the natural banks. This flow occurs, on average, about once every 1 to 2 years and given its frequency and magnitude is responsible for the shaping of most stream or river channels.
Bankfull mean depth -- The mean depth of flow at the bankfull stage, determined as the cross-sectional area (sum of the products of unit width times depth) divided by the bankfull surface width.
Bankfull stage -- The elevation of the water surface associated with the bankfull discharge.
Bankfull width -- The width of a river or stream channel between the highest banks on either side of a stream.
Bar -- An accumulation of alluvium (usually gravel or sand) caused by a decrease in sediment transport capacity on the inside of meander bends or in the center of an overwide channel.
Barrier -- A physical block or impediment to the movement or migration of fish, such as a waterfall (natural barrier) or a dam (man-made barrier).
Base flow -- The sustained portion of stream discharge that is drawn from natural storage sources, and not affected by human activity or regulation.
Bathymetry -- the measure of the depth of water in oceans, seas, and lakes.
Bed load -- Sediment moving on or near the streambed and transported by jumping, rolling, or sliding on the bed layer of a stream. See also suspended load.
Bed material -- The sediment mixture that a streambed is composed of.
Bed material load -- That portion of the total sediment load with sediments of a size found in the streambed.
Bed roughness -- A measure of the irregularity of the streambed as it contributes to flow resistance. Commonly expressed as a Manning "n" value.
Bed slope -- The inclination of the channel bottom, measured as the elevation drop per unit length of channel.
Bedform -- Individual patterns which streams follow that characterize the condition of the stream bed into several categories. (See: braided, dune-ripple, plane bed, riffle-pool, step-pool, and cascade.)
Belt width (meander width) -- The linear amplitude(s) between two sequential meanders, measured from outside of each meander.
Benthic invertebrates -- Aquatic animals without backbones that dwell on or in the bottom sediments of fresh or salt water. Examples: clams, crayfish, and a wide variety of worms.
Berms -- Mounds of dirt, earth, gravel, or other fill built parallel to the stream banks designed to keep flood flows from entering the adjacent floodplain.
Biota -- All living organisms of a region, as in a stream or other body of water.
Bog -- Nutrient-poor, acidic wetlands dominated by sphagnum mosses, sedges, and shrubs as well as evergreen trees rooted in deep peat.
Boulder -- A large substrate particle that is larger than cobble, between 10 and 160 inches in diameter.
Boundary resistance -- The ability a stream bank has to withstand the erosional forces of the flowing water at varying intensities. Under natural conditions boundary resistance is increased due to stream bank vegetation (roots), cohesive clays, large boulder substrate, etc.
Braided -- A stream channel characterized by flow within several channels, which successively meet and divide. Braiding often occurs when sediment loading is too large to be carried by a single channel.
Braiding (of river channels) -- Successive division and rejoining of riverflow with accompanying islands.
Buffer strip -- A barrier of permanent vegetation, either forest or other vegetation, between waterways and land uses such as agriculture or urban development, designed to intercept and filter out pollution before it reaches the surface water resource.
Canopy -- A layer of foliage in a forest stand. This most often refers to the uppermost layer of foliage, but it can be used to describe lower layers in a multistoried stand. Leaves, branches and vegetation that are above ground and/or water that provide shade and cover for fish and wildlife.
Cascade -- A short, steep drop in streambed elevation often marked by boulders and agitated white water.
Catchment -- (1) The catching or collecting of water, especially rainfall. (2) A reservoir or other basin for catching water. (3) Thewater thus caught. (4) A watershed.
Channel -- An area that contains continuously or periodically flowing water that is confined by banks and a streambed.
Channelization -- The process of changing (usually straightening) the natural path of a waterway.
Channel evolution model (CEM) -- A series of stages used to describe the erosional or depositional processes that occur within a stream or river in order to regain a dynamic equilibrium following a disturbance.
Clay -- Substrate particles that are smaller than silt and generally less than 0.0001 inches in diameter.
Coarse gravel -- Substrate that is smaller than cobble, but larger than fine gravel. The diameter of this stream-bottom particulate is between 0.63 and 2.5 inches.
Cobble -- Substrate particles that are smaller than boulders and larger than gravels, and are generally between 2.5 and 10 inches in diameter.
Conductivity -- The The ability of water to pass an electrical current because of the presence of dissolved ions. It’s often called the “watchdog” environmental test since it is informative and easy to perform. See specific conductance.
Confinement -- See Valley confinement.
Confluence -- (1) The act of flowing together; the meeting or junction of two or more streams; also, the place where these streams meet. (2) The stream or body of water formed by the junction of two or more streams; a combined flood.
Conifer -- A tree belonging to the order Gymnospermae, comprising a wide range of trees that are mostly evergreens. Conifers bear cones (hence, coniferous) and have needle-shaped or scalelike leaves.
Conservation -- The process or means of achieving recovery of viable populations.
Contiguous habitat -- Habitat suitable to support the life needs of a species that is distributed continuously or nearly continuously across the landscape.
Cover -- “Cover” is the general term used to describe any structure that provides refuge for fish, reptiles or amphibians. These animals seek cover to hide from predators, to avoid warm water temperatures, and to rest, by avoiding higher velocity water. These animals come in all sizes, so even cobbles on the stream bottom that are not sedimented in with fine sands and silt can serve as cover for small fish and salamanders. Larger fish and reptiles often use large boulders, undercut banks, submerged logs, and snags for cover.
Critical shear stress -- The minimum amount of shear stress exerted by stream currents required to initiate soil particle motion. Because gravity also contributes to streambank particle movement but not on streambeds, critical shear stress along streambanks is less than for streambeds.
Cross-section -- A series of measurements, relative to bankfull, that are taken across a stream channel that are representative of the geomorphic condition and stream type of the reach.
Crown -- The upper part of a tree or other woody plant that carries the main system of branches and the foliage.
Crown cover -- The degree to which the crowns of trees are nearing general contact with one another.
Cubic feet per second (cfs) -- A unit used to measure water flow. One cubic foot per second is equal to 449 gallons per minute.
Culvert -- A buried pipe that allows flows to pass under a road.
Deciduous -- Trees and plants that shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Degradation -- (1) A progressive lowering of the channel bed due to scour. Degradation is an indicator that the stream's discharge and/or sediment load is changing. The opposite of aggradation. (2) A decrease in value for a designated use.
Deposition pattern -- A planform characterization of the deposition location and form.
Detritus -- Organic material, such as leaves, twigs, and other dead plant matter, that collects on the stream bottom. It may occur in clumps, such as leaf packs at the bottom of a pool, or as single pieces, such as a fallen tree branch.
Diatome -- A group of single-celled algae that have ornate cell walls made out of silica.
Dike -- (1) (Engineering) An embankment to confine or control water, especially one built along the banks of a river to prevent overflow of lowlands; a levee. (2) A low wall that can act as a barrier to prevent a spill from spreading. (3) (Geology) A tabular body of igneous (formed by volcanic action) rock that cuts across the structure of adjacent rocks or cuts massive rocks.
Dissolved oxygen (DO) -- The amount of free (not chemically combined) oxygen dissolved in water, wastewater, or other liquid, usually expressed in milligrams per liter, parts per million, or percent of saturation.
Ditch -- A long narrow trench or furrow dug in the ground, as for irrigation, drainage, or a boundary line.
Dominant bank erosion hazard index -- The bank erodibility condition that is most representative of the study reach.
Dominant near bank shear stress -- The near bank shear stress that is most representative of the conditions in a study reach.
Drainage area -- The total surface area upstream of a point on a stream that drains toward that point. Not to be confused with watershed. The drainage area may include one or more watersheds.
Drainage basin -- The total area of land from which water drains into a specific river.
Drainage density -- A ratio of stream miles to drainage area that measures the concentration of the drainage network of a stream.
Dredging -- Removing material (usually sediments) from wetlands or waterways, usually to make them deeper or wider.
Dune-ripple -- A bedform associated with low-gradient, sand-bed channels; the low gradient nature of the channel causes the sand to form a sequence of dunes and small ripples; significant sediment transport typically occurs at most stream stages.
Ecosystem -- Recognizable, relatively homogeneous units, including the organisms they contain, their environment, and all the interactions among them.
Embankment -- An artificial deposit of material that is raised above the natural surface of the land and used to contain, divert, or store water, support roads or railways, or for other similar purposes.
Embeddedness -- A measure of the amount of surface area of cobbles, boulders, snags and other stream bottom structures that is covered with sand and silt. An embedded streambed may be packed hard with sand and silt such that rocks in the stream bottom are difficult or impossible to pick up. The spaces between the rocks are filled with fine sediments, leaving little room for fish, amphibians, and bugs to use the structures for cover, resting, spawning, and feeding. A streambed that is not embedded has loose rocks that are easily removed from the stream bottom, and may even “roll” on one another when you walk on them.
Entrenchment ratio -- The width of the flood-prone area divided by the bankfull width.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) -- Genetic material obtained directly from environmental samples (soil, sediment, water, etc.) without any obvious signs of biological source material.
Epifaunal – “epi” means surface, and “fauna” means animals. Thus, “epifaunal substrate” is structures in the stream (on the stream bed) that provide surfaces on which animals can live. In this case, the animals are aquatic invertebrates (such as aquatic insects and other “bugs”). These bugs live on or under cobbles, boulders, logs, and snags, and the many cracks and crevices found in these structures. In general, older decaying logs are better suited for bugs to live on/in than newly fallen “green” logs and trees.
Ephemeral streams -- Streams that flow only in direct response to precipitation and whose channel is at all times above the water table.
Equilibrium condition -- The state of a river reach in which the upstream input of energy (flow of water) and materials (sediment and debris) is equal to its output to downstream reaches. Natural river reaches without human impacts tend towards a “stable” state where predictable channel forms are maintained over the long term under varying flow conditions.
Erosion -- Wearing away of rock or soil by the gradual detachment of soil or rock fragments by water, wind, ice, and other mechanical, chemical, or biological forces.
Eutrophic -- Usually refers to a nutrient-enriched, highly productive body of water.
Eutrophication -- The process of enrichment of water bodies by nutrients.
Fen -- Similar to bogs in that they also have peat soils, but, contrary to bogs, fens receive water from the surrounding watershed through inflowing streams and groundwater, while bogs receive water primarily from precipitation.
Fine gravel -- Substrate which is larger than sand, but smaller than coarse gravel. It is between 0.08 and 0.63 inches in diameter.
Fish habitat enhancement -- Following a limiting factor analysis based on biologic and physical habitat surveys, a series of stream habitat improvement works are designed to offset the limiting factors previously identified.
Flash flood -- A sudden flood of great volume, usually caused by a heavy rain. Also, a flood that crests in a short length of time and is often characterized by high velocity flows.
Flood-frequency analysis -- This analysis uses a probability of a given magnitude flood peak that may be expected to occur for a given return period expressed in years. For example the “1 in 100 year” flood would have a probability of 0.01 or 1 % of being equaled or exceeded in any one year. Recurrence interval is determined as: 1.00/ probability of exceedance. Correspondingly, probability of exceedance is determined as 1.0/recurrence interval (yrs) times 100. The graphical method of flood frequency analysis involves ranking the historical record of flood peaks from highest to lowest and given a plotting position (m/N+1, where: m = rank of the event, N = number of years of record). This calculation gives exceedance probability for their respective peak flows. The data and their respective plotting positions are plotted on probability paper and a line drawn to interpret the points. The result is called a probability plot and the fitted line a flood-frequency curve.
Floodplain -- Land built of fine particulate organic matter and small substrate that is regularly covered with water as a result of the flooding of a nearby stream.
Floodplain (100-year) -- The area adjacent to a stream that is on average inundated once a century.
Floodplain function – Flood water access of floodplain which effects the velocity, depth, and slope (stream power) of the flood flow thereby influencing the sediment transport characteristics of the flood (i.e., loss of floodplain access and function may lead to higher stream power and erosion during flood).
Floodprone width -- The lateral distance between the two points on either side of the stream that are at an elevation twice that of bankfull.
Flow -- The amount of water passing a particular point in a stream or river, usually expressed in cubic feet per second (cfs).
Fluvial -- Migrating between main rivers and tributaries. Of or pertaining to streams or rivers.
Fluvial Geomorphology -- The study of how rivers and their landforms interact over time through different climatic conditions.
Ford -- A shallow place in a body of water, such as a river, where one can cross by walking or riding on an animal or in a vehicle.
Fry -- A recently hatched fish.
Gaging station -- A particular site in a stream, lake, reservoir, etc., where hydrologic data are obtained.
Gallons per minute (gpm) -- A unit used to measure water flow.
Geographic information system (GIS) -- A computer system capable of storing and manipulating spatial data.
Geomorphology -- A branch of both physiography and geology that deals with the form of the earth, the general configuration of its surface, and the changes that take place due to erosion of the primary elements and the buildup of erosional debris.
Glide -- A section of stream that has little or no turbulence.
Grade control -- A fixed feature on the streambed that controls the bed elevation at that point, effectively fixing the bed elevation from potential incision; typically bedrock, dams. or culverts.
Grade control structure -- A structure designed to maintain the local base level of a stream and/or to influence the grade of the stream either upstream and/or downstream. It can be constructed from a variety of materials including logs, boulders, loose rock, concrete, and gabion baskets.
Graded stream -- A stream in which, over a period of years, slope is delicately adjusted to provide, with available discharge and prevailing channel characteristics, just the velocity required for the transportation of the load supplied by the drainage basin (Mackin). (See natural channel stability, regime channel, and quasi-equilibrium).
Gradient -- Vertical drop per unit of horizontal distance.
Grass/forb -- Herbaceous vegetation.
Gravel -- An unconsolidated natural accumulation of rounded rock fragments, mostly of particles larger than sand (diameter greater than 2 mm), such as boulders, cobbles, pebbles, granules, or any combination of these.
Groundwater -- Subsurface water and underground streams that can be collected with wells, or that flow naturally to the earth's surface through springs.
Groundwater basin -- A groundwater reservoir, defined by an overlying land surface and the underlying aquifers that contain water stored in the reservoir. In some cases, the boundaries of successively deeper aquifers may differ and make it difficult to define the limits of the basin.
Groundwater recharge -- Increases in groundwater storage by natural conditions or by human activity. See also artificial recharge.
Groundwater table -- The upper surface of the zone of saturation, except where the surface is formed by an impermeable body.
Habitat diversity -- The number of different types of habitat within a given area.
Habitat fragmentation -- The breaking up of habitat into discrete islands through modification or conversion of habitat by management activities.
Headcut -- A sharp change in slope, almost vertical, where the streambed is being eroded from downstream to upstream.
Headwater -- Referring to the source of a stream or river.
High gradient streams -- Typically appear as steep cascading streams, step/pool streams, or streams that exhibit riffle/pool sequences. Most of the streams in the Ausable River watershed are high gradient streams.
Hydraulic gradient -- The slope of the water surface. See also streambed gradient.
Hydraulic radius -- The cross-sectional area of a stream divided by the wetted perimeter.
Hydric -- Oil that formed under conditions of saturation, flooding, or ponding long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper horizon.
Hydrograph -- A curve showing stream discharge over time.
Hydrologic balance -- An accounting of all water inflow to, water outflow from, and changes in water storage within a hydrologic unit over a specified period of time.
Hydrologic region -- A study area, consisting of one or more planning subareas, that has a common hydrologic character.
Hydrologic unit Code (HUC) -- A distinct watershed or river basin defined by an 8-digit code.
Hydrology -- The scientific study of the water of the earth, its occurrence, circulation and distribution, its chemical and physical properties, and its interaction with its environment, including its relationship to living things.
Hyporheic zone -- The area under the stream channel and floodplain where groundwater and the surface waters of the stream are exchanged freely.
Impoundment -- An area where the natural flow of the river has been disrupted by the presence of human-made or natural structure (e.g. weir or beaver dam). The impoundment backwater extends upstream causing sediment to be deposited on the stream bottom.
Improved paths -- Paths that are maintained and typically involve paved, gravel or macadam surfaces.
Incised river -- A river that erodes its channel by the process of degradation to a lower base level than existed previously or is consistent with the current hydrology.
Incision ratio -- The low bank height divided by the bankfull maximum depth.
Infiltration (soil) -- The movement of water through the soil surface into the soil.
Inflection point -- The slope break(s) along the stream bank where the orientation of the bank transitions from a vertical to horizontal angle.
Inflow -- Water that flows into a stream, lake, or reservoir during a specified period.
Instream cover -- The layers of vegetation, like trees, shrubs, and overhanging vegetation, that are in the stream or immediately adjacent to the wetted channel.
Instream flows -- (1) Portion of a flood flow that is contained by the channel. (2) A minimum flow requirement to maintain ecological health in a stream.
Instream use -- Use of water that does not require diversion from its natural watercourse. For example, the use of water for navigation, recreation, fish and wildlife, aesthetics, and scenic enjoyment.
Intermittent stream -- Any nonpermanent flowing drainage feature having a definable channel and evidence of scour or deposition. This includes what are sometimes referred to as ephemeral streams if they meet these two criteria.
Irrigation diversion -- Generally, a ditch or channel that deflects water from a stream channel for irrigation purposes.
Islands -- Mid-channel bars that are above the average water level and have established woody vegetation.
Landslide -- A movement of earth mass down a steep slope.
Land Use/Land Cover (LULC) -- A description of the land activities/natural resources within a delineated area.
Large woody material -- Pieces of wood at least 6 ft. long and 1 ft. in diameter (at the large end) contained, at least partially, within the bankfull area of a channel.
Levee -- An embankment constructed to prevent a river from overflowing (flooding).
Limiting factor -- A requirement such as food, cover, or another physical, chemical, or biological factor that is in shortest supply with respect to all resources necessary to sustain life and thus "limits" the size or retards production of a population.
Limnology -- The study of the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.
Lithology -- A general description of the physical characteristics and properties of a rock.
Low gradient -- streams typically appear slow moving and winding, and have poorly defined riffles and pools.
Macrophytes -- Aquatic plants that are large enough to be seen with the naked eye.
Main Stem -- The principal channel of a drainage system into which other smaller streams or rivers flow.
Marsh -- A mineral-rich wetland where the dominant vegetation consists of herbaceous plants that are rooted in hydric soils rather than peat.
Mass movement -- The downslope movement of earth caused by gravity. Includes but is not limited to landslides, rock falls, debris avalanches, and creep. It does not however, include surface erosion by running water. It may be caused by natural erosional processes, or by natural disturbances (e.g., earthquakes or fire events) or human disturbances (e.g., mining or road construction).
Mean annual discharge -- Daily mean discharge averaged over a period of years. Mean annual discharge generally fills a channel to about one-third of its bank-full depth.
Mean velocity -- The average cross-sectional velocity of water in a stream channel. Surface values typically are much higher than bottom velocities. May be approximated in the field by multiplying the surface velocity, as determined with a float, times 0.8.
Meander -- The winding of a stream channel, usually in an erodible alluvial valley. A series of sine-generated curves characterized by curved flow and alternating banks and shoals.
Meander amplitude -- The distance between points of maximum curvature of successive meanders of opposite phase in a direction normal to the general course of the meander belt, measured between center lines of channels.
Meander belt width -- the distance between lines drawn tangential to the extreme limits of fully developed meanders. Not to be confused with meander amplitude.
Meander pattern -- A planform characterization of the meander location and form.
Meander length -- The lineal distance down valley between two corresponding points of successive meanders of the same phase.
Meander wave -- A series of three meanders starting at the apex of a meander, continuing through another meander, and ending at the apex of the next meander.
Meander wavelength -- The linear distance between the apexes of an entire meander wavelength.
Meander width ratio -- A ratio of meander width to bankfull width.
Mid-channel Bars – Bars located in the channel away from the banks, generally found in areas where the channel runs straight. Mid-channel bars caused by recent channel instability are unvegetated.
Milligrams per liter (mg/l) -- The weight in milligrams of any substance dissolved in 1 liter of liquid; nearly the same as parts per million by weight.
Moraine -- a mass of till either carried by an active glacier or deposited on the land after a glacier recedes.
Native material revetment -- Involves stabilizing streambanks with root wads, logs, boulders, willow and other woody plants and live sod mats. This type of revetment provides improved visual and biological values as opposed to “rip rap, concrete, and gabion basket revetments.”
Natural channel stability -- The ability of a stream, over time, to transport the flow and sediment of its watershed without aggrading nor degrading while maintaining its dimensions, pattern and profile.
Near bank shear stress -- The measured or estimated shear stress associated with the third of the channel closest to the study bank.
Neck cutoff -- A channel migration feature where the land that separates a meander bend is cut off by the lateral migration of the channel. This process may be part of the equilibrium regime or associated with channel instability.
Outwash -- Water-transported material carried away from the ablation zone of a melting glacier.
Oxbow -- An abandoned meander in a river or stream, caused by cutoff. Used to describe the U-shaped bend in the river or the land within such a bend of a river.
Pebble Count -- The process by which the composition and basic characterization of streambeds and banks are determined; it requires an observer with a metric ruler who wades through the stream and a note taker who wades along side, or remains on the bank with the field book, tallying particules using size classes or categories.
Perched groundwater -- Groundwater supported by a zone of material of low permeability located above an underlying main body of groundwater with which it is not hydrostatically connected.
Perennial streams -- Streams that flow continuously.
Permeability -- The capability of soil or other geologic formations to transmit water.
pH -- The negative logarithm of the molar concentration of the hydrogen ion, or, more simply acidity.
Phytoplankton -- Microscopic floating plants, mainly algae, that live suspended in bodies of water and that drift about because they cannot move by themselves or because they are too small or too weak to swim effectively against a current.
Planform -- The channel shape as if observed from the air. Changes in planform often involve shifts in large amount of sediment, bank erosion, or the migration of the channel. A channel straightened for agricultural purposes has a highly impacted planform.
Point bar -- The convex side of a meander bend that is built up due to sediment deposition.
Pond -- A body of water smaller than a lake, often artificially formed.
Pool -- A reach of stream that is characterized by deep, low-velocity water and a smooth surface.
Potential plant height -- The height to which a plant, shrub or tree would grow if undisturbed.
Primary producers -- The organisms which capture the energy in sunlight by photosynthes; plants on land and the microscopic single-celled plants called phytoplankton in water.
Probability of exceedance -- The probability that a random flood will exceed a specified magnitude in a given period of time.
Railroads -- Used or unused railroad infrastructure.
Rapids -- A reach of stream that is characterized by small falls and turbulent, high-velocity water.
Reach -- A section of stream having relatively uniform physical attributes, such as valley confinement, valley slope, sinuosity, dominant bed material, and bed form, as determined in the Phase 1 assessment.
Rearing habitat -- Areas in rivers or streams where juvenile fish find food and shelter to live and grow.
Reference stream type -- Uses preliminary observations to determine the natural channel form and process that would be present in the absence of anthropogenic impacts to the channel and the surrounding watershed.
Refuge area -- An area within a stream that provides protection to aquatic species during very low and/or high flows.
Regime channel -- The adjustment of a channel over time to have just the necessary slope, dimensions and patterns to transport the sediment supplied to the channel. See natural channel stability.
Regime theory -- A theory of channel formation that applies to streams that make a part of their boundaries from their transported sediment load and a portion of their transported sediment load from their boundaries. Channels are considered in regime or equilibrium when bank erosion and bank formation are equal.
Rehabilitation -- (see restoration).
Restoration -- The return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance.
Riffle -- A reach of stream that is characterized by shallow, fast-moving water broken by the presence of rocks and boulders.
Riffle/pool channel -- Is generally associated with alluvial channels on slopes less than .02 whose bed features are composed of a series of pools (deep and flat slope facets) and riffles (shallow and steep slope facets). The pool-to-pool sequence is related to the meander geometry of rivers and is associated with meander wavelength (approximately 5-7 bankfull widths).
Riffle-pool ratio -- The ratio of surface area or length of pools to the surface area or length of riffles in a given stream reach; frequently expressed as the relative percentage of each category. Used to describe fish habitat rearing quality.
Riffle-step ratio -- ratio of the distance between riffles to the stream width.
Riparian area -- An area of land and vegetation adjacent to a stream that has a direct effect on the stream. This includes woodlands, vegetation, and floodplains. Riparian buffer is the width of naturally vegetated land adjacent to the stream between the top of the bank (or top of slope, depending on site characteristics) and the edge of other land uses. A buffer is largely undisturbed and consists of the trees, shrubs, groundcover plants, duff layer, and naturally uneven ground surface. The buffer serves to protect the water body from the impacts of adjacent land uses. Riparian corridor includes lands defined by the lateral extent of a stream’s meanders necessary to maintain a stable stream dimension, pattern, profile, and sediment regime. For instance, in stable pool-riffle streams, riparian corridors may be as wide as 10-12 times the channel’s bankfull width. In addition the riparian corridor typically corresponds to the land area surrounding and including the stream that supports (or could support if unimpacted) a distinct ecosystem, generally with abundant and diverse plant and animal communities (as compared with upland communities).
Riparian habitat -- The aquatic and terrestrial habitat adjacent to streams, lakes, estuaries, or other waterways.
Riparian -- Located on the banks of a stream or other body of water.
Riparian vegetation -- The plants that grow adjacent to a wetland area such as a river, stream, reservoir, pond, spring, marsh, bog, meadow, etc., and that rely upon the hydrology of the associated water body.
Ripple -- (1) A specific undulated bed form found in sand bed streams. (2) Undulations or waves on the surface of flowing water.
Riprap -- Rock or other material with a specific mixture of sizes referred to as a "gradation," used to stabilize streambanks or riverbanks from erosion or to create habitat features in a stream.
River channels --Large natural or artificial open streams that continuously or periodically contain moving water, or which form a connection between two bodies of water.
River miles -- Generally, miles from the mouth of a river to a specific destination or, for upstream tributaries, from the confluence with the main river to a specific destination.
River reach -- Any defined length of a river.
River stage -- The elevation of the water surface at a specified station above some arbitrary zero datum (level).
Riverine -- Relating to, formed by, or resembling a river including tributaries, streams, brooks, etc.
Riverine habitat -- The aquatic habitat within streams and rivers.
Roads -- Transportation infrastructure. Includes private, town, state roads, and roads that are dirt, gravel, or paved.
Rock -- A naturally formed mass of minerals.
Rootwad -- The mass of roots associated with a tree adjacent to or in a stream that provides refuge for fish and other aquatic life.
Rosgen Stream Classification System -- A system for natural rivers in which morphological arrangements of stream characteristics are organized into relatively homogeneous stream types.
Run (in stream or river) -- A reach of stream characterized by fast-flowing, low-turbulence water.
Runoff -- Water that flows over the ground and reaches a stream as a result of rainfall or snowmelt.
Scour -- The erosive action of running water in streams, which excavates and carries away material from the bed and banks. Scour may occur in both earth and solid rock material and can be classed as general, contraction, or local scour.
Secchi Disk -- An 8-inch (20 cm) disk with alternating black and white quadrants. It is lowered into the water of a lake until it can no longer be seen by the observer. This depth of disappearance, called the Secchi depth, is a measure of the transparency of the water.
Sediment -- Soil or mineral material transported by water or wind and deposited in streams or other bodies of water.
Sedimentation -- (1) The combined processes of soil erosion, entrainment, transport, deposition, and consolidation. (2) Deposition of sediment.
Seepage -- The gradual movement of a fluid into, through, or from a porous medium. Segment: A relatively homogenous section of stream contained within a reach that has the same reference stream characteristics but is distinct from other segments in the reach in one or more of the following parameters: degree of floodplain encroachment, presence/absence of grade controls, bankfull channel dimensions (W/D ratio, entrenchment), channel sinuosity and slope, riparian buffer and corridor conditions, abundance of springs/seeps/adjacent wetlands/stormwater inputs, and degree of channel alterations.
Sensitivity -- Susceptibility of the valley, floodplain, and/or channel condition to change due to natural causes and/or anticipated human activity.
Shear stress -- The measured or estimated erosional forces associated with stream flow, measured in pounds per square feet.
Shoals -- Unvegetated deposits of gravels and cobbles adjacent to the banks that have a height less than the average water level. In channels that are over-widened, the stream does not have the power to transport these larger sediments, and thus they are deposited throughout the channel as shoals.
Silt -- Substrate particles smaller than sand and larger than clay; between 0.0001 and 0.002 inches in diameter.
Siltation -- The deposition or accumulation of fine soil particles.
Sinuosity -- The ratio of channel length to direct down-valley distance. Also may be expressed as the ratio of down-valley slope to channel slope.
Slope -- The ratio of the change in elevation over distance.
Slope break -- The vertical intersection of two different slope angles along the bank profile.
Slope stability -- The resistance of a natural or artificial slope or other inclined surface to failure by mass movement.
Snag -- Any standing dead, partially dead, or defective (cull) tree at least 10 in. in diameter at breast height and at least 6 ft tall. Snags are important riparian habitat features.
Soil association -- A soil classification with distinct soil characteristics and properties that is identified by the United States Department of Agriculture - Soil Conservation Service.
Spawning -- The depositing and fertilizing of eggs (or roe) by fish and other aquatic life.
Specific Conductance -- Calculations of specific conductance standardize conductivity measurements to the temperature of 25 °C for the purposes of comparison. Rain, erosion, snow melt, runoff carrying livestock waste, failing septic systems, and road salt all raise conductivity because of the presence of ions such as chloride, phosphate, nitrite etc. Temperature, shade, sunlight, and sampling depth all affect conductivity. A conductivity probe does not identify the specific ions in a water sample, it simply measures the level of total dissolved solids in the water body. See conductivity.
Spillway -- A channel for reservoir overflow.
Stable channel -- A stream channel with the right balance of slope, planform, and cross section to transport both the water and sediment load without net long-term bed or bank sediment deposition or erosion throughout the stream segment.
Stabilization -- Hardening the bed and banks of a river in place using variety of materials and methods including: bioengineering, check dams, concrete lined channels, gabions, rip rap, bin-walls, log crib walls, weirs, willow post plantings, and many other techniques.
Stone -- Rock or rock fragments used for construction.
Straightening -- The removal of meander bends, often done in towns and along roadways, railroads, and agricultural fields.
Stream -- A general term for a body of water flowing by gravity; natural watercourse containing water at least part of the year. In hydrology, the term is generally applied to the water flowing in a natural narrow channel as distinct from a canal. Stream banks are features that define the channel sides and contain stream flow within the channel; this is the portion of the channel bank that is between the toe of the bank slope and the bankfull elevation. The banks are distinct from the streambed, which is normally wetted and provides a substrate that supports aquatic organisms. The top of bank is the point where an abrupt change in slope is evident, and where the stream is generally able to overflow the banks and enter the adjacent floodplain during flows at or exceeding the average annual high water.
Stream channel -- A long narrow depression shaped by the concentrated flow of a stream and covered continuously or periodically by water.
Stream condition -- Given the land use, channel and floodplain modifications documented at the assessment sites, the current degree of change in the channel and floodplain from the reference condition for parameters such as dimension, pattern, profile, sediment regime, and vegetation.
Stream gradient -- A general slope or rate of change in vertical elevation per unit of horizontal distance of the bed, water surface, or energy grade of a stream.
Stream morphology -- The form and structure of streams.
Stream order -- A hydrologic system of stream classification. Each small unbranched tributary is a first-order stream. Two firstorder streams join to make a second-order stream. A third-order stream has only first-and second-order tributaries, and so forth.
Stream reach -- An individual segment of stream that has beginning and ending points defined by identifiable features such as where a tributary confluence changes the channel character or order.
Stream slope -- Is determined by the change in elevation of the bed surface over a measured length of channel. It is expressed as a ratio of elevation (rise) over distance (run) in ft/ft.
Stream stability -- The ability of a stream to transport the water and sediment of its watershed in such a manner to maintain its dimension, pattern and profile, over time, without either aggrading or degrading.
Stream succession -- The evolutionary stage(s) of a stream as it attempts to reach a stable state described using the Rosgen stream classification types.
Stream type -- Gives the overall physical characteristics of the channel and helps predict the reference or stable condition of the reach.
Stream type departure -- When the current stream type differs from the reference stream type as a response to anthropogenic or severe natural disturbances. These departures are often characterized by large-scale incision, deposition, or changes in planform.
Streambank armoring – The installation of concrete walls, gabions, stone riprap, and other large erosion resistant material along stream banks.
Streambank erosion -- The removal of soil from streambanks by flowing water.
Streambank stabilization -- The lining of streambanks with riprap, matting, etc., or other measures intended to control erosion.
Streambed -- (1) The unvegetated portion of a channel boundary below the baseflow level. (2) The channel through which a natural stream of water runs or used to run, as a dry streambed.
Streamflow -- The rate at which water passes a given point in a stream or river, usually expressed in cubic feet per second (cfs).
Step (in a river system) -- A step is a steep, step-like feature in a high gradient stream (> 2%). Steps are composed of large boulders lines across the stream. Steps are important for providing grade-control, and for dissipating energy. As fast-shallow water flows over the steps it takes various flow paths thus dissipating energy during high flow events.
Substrate -- (1) The composition of a streambed, including either mineral or organic materials. (2) Material that forms an attachment medium for organisms.
Surface erosion -- The detachment and transport of soil particles by wind, water, or gravity. Or a group of processes whereby soil materials are removed by running water, waves and currents, moving ice, or wind.
Surface water -- All waters whose surface is naturally exposed to the atmosphere, for example, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, streams, impoundments, seas, estuaries, etc., and all springs, wells, or other collectors directly influenced by surface water.
Suspended sediment -- Sediment suspended in a fluid by the upward components of turbulent currents, moving ice, or wind.
Suspended sediment load -- That portion of a stream's total sediment load that is transported within the body of water and has very little contact with the streambed.
Swamp -- Freshwater wetlands dominated by trees rooted in hydric soils rather than peat.
Terrace -- Is a flat adjacent, to the river in alluvial valleys created by the abandonment of the floodplain. Other than the low terrace, it is rare that terraces are flooded in the modern climate. Many of the higher terraces are related to elevations associated with the Holocene period. Other terraces are related to changes in local base level adjustments from recent perturbations and associated stream degradation, creating abandoned floodplains (terraces).
Thalweg -- (1) The lowest thread along the axial part of a valley or stream channel. (2) A subsurface, groundwater stream percolating beneath and in the general direction of a surface stream course or valley. (3) The middle, chief, or deepest part of a navigable channel or waterway.
Tractive Force -- The drag on a streambed or bank caused by passing water, which tends to pull soil particles along with the streamflow.
Transpiration -- An essential physiological process in which plant tissues give off water vapor to the atmosphere.
Tributary -- A stream that flows into another stream, river, or lake.
Turbidity -- A measure of the content of suspended matter that interferes with the passage of light through the water or in which visual depth is restricted. Suspended sediments are only one component of turbidity.
Turnover/Mixing -- The mixing of the water in a lake in the autumn or spring due to wind, annual cycle of air temperature, and heating from the sun.
Urban runoff -- Storm water from city streets and gutters that usually carries a great deal of litter and organic and bacterial wastes into the sewer systems and receiving waters.
Valley confinement -- Referring to the ratio of valley width to channel width. Unconfined channels (confinement of 4 or greater) flow through broader valleys and typically have higher sinuosity and area for floodplain. Confined channels (confinement of less than 4) typically flow through narrower valleys.
Valley wall -- The side slope of a valley, which begins where the topography transitions from the gentle-sloped valley floor. The distance between valley walls is used to calculate the valley confinement.
Variable-stage stream -- Stream flows perennially but water level rises and falls significantly with storm and runoff events.
Velocity -- In this concept, the speed of water flowing in a watercourse, such as a river.
Water quality -- A term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose.
Water surface slope -- Is the slope of the stream as measured at the water surface rather than the bed surface. It is often used as the average energy grade of the stream. Water surface slope measurements are often obtained for various stages of stream flow. Slope values will vary somewhat for riffles and pools for the low flow stage compared to the bankfull stage.
Waterfall -- A sudden, nearly vertical drop in a stream, as it flows over rock.
Watershed -- An area of land whose total surface drainage flows to a single point in a stream.
Watershed management -- The analysis, protection, development, operation, or maintenance of the land, vegetation, and water resources of a drainage basin for the conservation of all its resources for the benefit of its residents.
Watershed project -- A comprehensive program of structural and nonstructural measures to preserve or restore a watershed to good hydrologic condition. These measures may include detention reservoirs, dikes, channels, contour trenches, terraces, furrows, gully plugs, revegetation, and possibly other practices to reduce flood peaks and sediment production.
Watershed restoration -- Improving current conditions of watersheds to restore degraded habitat and provide long-term protection to aquatic and riparian resources.
Weir -- A structure to control water levels in a stream. Depending upon the configuration, weirs can provide a specific "rating" for discharge as a function of the upstream water level.
Wetland -- Areas adjacent to, or within the stream, with sufficient surface/groundwater influence to have present hydric soils and aquatic vegetation (e.g. cattails, sedges, rushes, willows or alders).
Width/depth ratio -- The ratio of channel bankfull width to the average bankfull depth. An indicator of channel widening or aggradation, and used for stream type classification.
Wollman Pebble Count -- See "Pebble Count."