Humans have drastically disrupted the global sediment cycle. Suspended sediment flux and concentration are key controls over both river morphology and river ecosystems. Our ability to understand sediment dynamics within river corridors is limited by observations. Here, we present RivSed, a database of satellite observations of suspended sediment concentration (SSC) from 1984 to 2018 across 460 large (>60 m wide) US rivers that provides a new, spatially explicit view of river sediment. We found that 32% of US rivers have a declining temporal trend in sediment concentration, with a mean reduction of 40% since 1984, whereas only 2% have an increasing trend. Most rivers (52%) show decreasing sediment concentration longitudinally moving downstream, typically due to a few large dams rather than the accumulated effect of many small dams. Comparing our observations with modeled ‘pre-dam’ longitudinal SSC, most rivers (53%) show different patterns. However, contemporary longitudinal patterns in concentration are remarkably stable from year to year since 1984, with more stability in large, highly managed rivers with less cropland. RivSed has broad applications for river geomorphology and ecology and highlights anthropogenic effects on river corridors across the US.
Rivers are among the most imperiled ecosystems globally, yet we do not have broad‐scale understanding of their changing ecology because most are rarely sampled. Water color, as perceived by the human eye, is an integrative measure of water quality directly observed by satellites. We examined patterns in river color between 1984 and 2018 by building a remote sensing database of surface reflectance, RiverSR, extracted from 234,727 Landsat images covering 108,000 kilometers of rivers > 60 m wide in the contiguous USA. We found 1) broad regional patterns in river color, with 56% of observations dominantly yellow and 38% dominantly green; 2) river color has three distinct seasonal patterns that were synchronous with flow regimes; 3) one third of rivers had significant color shifts over the last 35 years. RiverSR provides the first map of river color and new insights into macrosystems ecology of rivers.more » « less
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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