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Advancing our predictive understanding of river corridor exchange

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Despite decades of research, we lack an accurate framework to predict and manage hydrologic exchange in the river corridor and the associated ecosystem services and functions at the scales of stream reaches and entire networks. While many individual studies have been conducted to investigate specific mechanisms, they have not been synthesized to account for heterogeneity in space, nonstationarity, and multiscale feedbacks that typify the river corridor. As a result, contradictory predictions of exchange flux, geometry, and timescale are prevalent in the literature. We attribute these contradictions to (a) failure to account for multiscale feedbacks and (b) uncertainty in the information content of common measurement methods. Here, we apply the concept of interacting multiscale spatial and time‐variable domains to the river corridor to demonstrate why more complete multiscale characterization is necessary to achieve predictive understanding. Next, we highlight uncertainties and inconsistencies in measurement methods which may obfuscate our understanding of river corridor exchange. Finally, we briefly outline four necessary advances to achieve predictive understanding of river corridor exchange: standardization of metadata, critical evaluation of the information content and support volumes for measurement techniques, multiscale model‐data integration, and advancing theoretical models of river corridor exchange. This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems Science of Water > Methods
Hierarchical organization of the river corridor. (a) CONCEPTUAL models of important mechanisms at a range of spatial scales. (b) Key evolutionary events and developmental processes for each domain. (Reprinted with permission from (Alley et al., 2002; Covino and McGlynn, 2007; Elliott, 1990; Gomez‐Velez et al., 2015; Haggerty and Gorelick, 1995; Harvey and Gooseff, 2015; Jackson et al., 2012; Larkin and Sharp, 1992; Poole, 2010; Singha et al., 2008; Stanford and Ward, 1993; Stonedahl et al., 2010; Tóth, 1963; Ward et al., 2013b; Winter et al., 1998), S. Arnon (personal communication)) (c) Mapping common explanatory metrics of hydrologic forcing and geologic setting onto the domains they have been used to study. (d) Common field measurement techniques and modeling approaches as a function of domain. Importantly, both observational approaches and models exist in the context of larger domains (commonly taken as boundary conditions or fixed‐in‐time characteristics) and include an integration of all smaller domains
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River systems exhibit a wide variety of sediment size, channel morphology, elevation profiles, and lateral constraint. Thus, comparisons across systems and transferable understanding must be based on multiscale characterization and methods that are known to work reliably across heterogeneous conditions. Clockwise from left: (1) Lookout Creek, Oregon, USA—gravel and cobble bed. (2) Río Mapocho, Chile—boulder and cobble bed. (3) North Saskatchewan River, Alberta, Canada—gravel bed. (4) Sugar Creek, Indiana, USA—cobble and sand bed. (5) Clear run, North Carolina, USA—sand bed. (6) Fox River, Alaska, USA—sand, silt, and clay bed
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Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems
Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
Science of Water > Methods

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