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Stream classifications that are based on channel form, such as the Rosgen Level II classification, are useful tools for the physical description and grouping of streams and for providing a means of communication for stream studies involving scientists and (or) managers with different backgrounds. The Level II classification also is used as a tool to assess stream stability, infer geomorphic processes, predict future geomorphic response, and guide stream restoration or rehabilitation activities. The use of the Level II classification for these additional purposes is evaluated in this paper. Several examples are described to illustrate the limitations and management implications of the Level II classification. Limitations include: (1) time dependence, (2) uncertain applicability across physical environments, (3) difficulty in identification of a true equilibrium condition, (4) potential for incorrect determination of bankfull elevation, and (5) uncertain process significance of classification criteria. Implications of using stream classifications based on channel form, such as Rosgen's, include: (1) acceptance of the limitations, (2) acceptance of the risk of classifying streams incorrectly, and (3) classification results may be used inappropriately. It is concluded that use of the Level II classification for purposes beyond description and communication is not appropriate. Research needs are identified that, if addressed, may help improve the usefulness of the Level II classification.
Additional Publication Details
Limitations and implications of stream classification
Journal of the American Water Resources Association