Urban impacts on stream morphology in the Ozark Plateaus Region


Urbanization typically increases runoff and sediment loads in streams which can cause geomorphic changes in channel size and planform. It is important to understand and predict these channel changes since they are often associated with flooding, sedimentation, water quality, and habitat management problems. This study examines the influence of urbanization on channel geomorphology in watersheds that drain metropolitan Springfield, Missouri, the third largest city in the state located in southwestern Missouri on the Springfield Plateau of the Ozarks Plateaus Region. Regression analysis is used to describe the spatial variations in channel morphology using drainage area, land use, and riparian vegetation variables. Interestingly, channel cross-section dimensions for a given drainage area did not differ between rural and urban streams. But compared to rural streams, urban streams have shorter riffle spacing, shallower pools and larger bed materials. The magnitude of urban influence on channel form in this study is generally within 20% of the rural reference streams, however, studies in other regions often report changes of 200% or more. The limited response of these Ozark streams to urban disturbance can be explained by pre-conditioning of watershed hydrology by historical land disturbances, presence of cohesive banks with natural gravel armoring near the bed, and karst bedrock-control.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Channel morphology, Ozark streams, Urban impacts

Publication Date


Journal Title

Proceedings of the 2004 Self-Sustaining Solutions for Streams, Wetlands, and Watersheds Conference