A fluvial island is a landform, elevated above and surrounded by stream-channel branches or waterways, that persists sufficiently long to establish permanent vegetation. Natural fluvial islands occur in any part of a drainage network but most commonly in montane, piedmont-valley, and coastal flood-plain environments. Processes, often interactive, by which islands form include avulsion (the sudden separation of land by a flood or by an abrupt change in the course of a stream), rapid and gradual channel incision, channel migration, dissection of both rapidly and slowly deposited bed sediment, and deposition of bed sediment on a vegetated surface or behind a channel obstruction. Products of high-energy conditions, fluvial islands typically lack stability over decades to millennia. Fluvial islands in Plum Creek, Colorado, USA, results of sorting processes following a recent high-magnitude flood, and in the Snake River, Idaho, USA, partly results of the Pleistocene Bonneville Flood, illustrate how islands form, develop, and disappear. The examples consider differing conditions of island shape, size, height, sediment, and vegetation.
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Processes of fluvial island formation, with examples from plum creek, Colorado and Snake River, Idaho