For decades, Channel Evolution Models have provided useful templates for understanding morphological responses to disturbance associated with lowering base level, channelization or alterations to the flow and/or sediment regimes. In this paper, two well-established Channel Evolution Models are revisited and updated in light of recent research and practical experience. The proposed Stream Evolution Model
includes a precursor stage, which recognizes that streams may naturally be multi-threaded prior to disturbance, and represents stream evolution as a cyclical, rather than linear, phenomenon, recognizing an evolutionary cycle within which streams advance through the common sequence, skip some stages entirely, recover to a previous stage or even repeat parts of the evolutionary cycle.
The hydrologic, hydraulic, morphological and vegetative attributes of the stream during each evolutionary stage provide varying ranges and qualities of habitat and ecosystem benefits. The authors’ personal experience was combined with information gleaned from recent literature to construct a fluvial habitat scoring scheme that distinguishes the relative, and substantial differences in, ecological values of different evolutionary stages. Consideration of the links between stream evolution and ecosystem services leads to improved understanding of the ecological status of contemporary, managed rivers compared with their historical, unmanaged counterparts. The potential utility of the Stream Evolution Model, with its interpretation of habitat and ecosystem benefits includes improved river management decision making with respect to future capital investment not only in aquatic, riparian and floodplain conservation and restoration but also in interventions intended to promote species recovery.Keyword Tags: