Riparian vegetation and fluvial-geomorphic processes and landforms are intimately connected parts of the bottomland landscape. Relations among vegetation, processes, and landforms are described here for representative streams of four areas of the United States: high-gradient streams of the humid east, coastal-plain streams. Great Plains streams, and stream channels of the southwestern United States. Vegetation patterns suggest that species distributions in the humid east are largely controlled by frequency, duration, and intensity of floods. Along channelized streams, vegetation distribution is largely controlled by variation in fluvial geomorphic processes (cycles of degradation and aggradation) in response to increases in channel gradient associated with channelization. Similarly, riparian vegetation of Great Plains streams may be controlled by fluxes in sediment deposition and erosion along braided streams. Patterns of riparian vegetation in semi-arid regions may be most closely related to patterns of water availability, unlike most other streams in more humid environments. Channel-equilibrium conditions control stability of the coincident fluvial landform and attendant vegetation pattern throughout the continent. In most situations, riparian-vegetation patterns are indicative of specific landforms and, thus, of ambient hydrogeomorphic conditions.
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Riparian vegetation and fluvial geomorphic processes