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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BSc Geography

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BSc Geography / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
River Catchment Science & Management

Unit code GEOG10712
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Rivers are dynamic systems that affect and are affected by people. Understanding the key processes that control river form and behaviour is a vital first step in managing these systems for the benefit of both people and the environment. This course will introduce the scientific principles underlying contemporary river catchment management and will illustrate with case studies and examples some of the key challenges that river managers face. With a focus on how processes of sediment erosion, transport and deposition shape a continuum of rivers types, this course will examine how disturbances such as human-induced climate change and volcanic eruptions lead to complex and often hazardous responses in river systems..




  • To provide an introduction to catchment-scale processes in fluvial geomorphology

  • To describe and explain the characteristic forms of river channels.

  • To explore the impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on rivers.

  • To introduce current approaches to river catchment management and restoration.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit you should have gained:

  • A good understanding of the key processes that shape river catchments and drainage networks.
  • The ability to explain the links between river channel form and processes operating at a range of spatial and temporal scales.
  • Appreciation of the ways in which rivers respond to external disturbances and the consequences of such responses for riparian habitats and people.
  • Knowledge of the benefits of healthy rivers and awareness of the need to preserve and restore river form and function.
  • A good understanding of the role of fluvial geomorphology in practical (applied) river catchment management.



1.       Introduction

2.       Catchment processes: sediment erosion, transport and deposition

3.       Controls on river form and function

4.       Human impacts on river systems I: climate and land use change

5.       Human impacts on river systems II: physical modifications

6.       Study week I

7.       Mount St Helens I: landscape disturbance and fluvial response

8.       Mount St Helens II: sediment-related flood risk and management

9.       Study week II

10.   Managing river systems I: regulation

11.   Managing river systems II: restoration

12.   Conclusions and summary: fluvial geomorphology and river catchment management

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be delivered through one 2-hour lecture each week. Lectures will include student interaction and discussion. Students are expected to read widely to support these classes and recommended reading will be posted on the course Blackboard site along with other relevant learning materials.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • Understanding of real-world issues facing river catchment managers.
  • Appreciation of the relevance of academic knowledge in river catchment management.
  • Ability to critically read and evaluate scientific literature.
  • Academic writing and research skills.
  • Organisational skills and independent study.

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed through an unseen exam at the end of the semester. The exam will consist of multiple choice questions, short answer questions and an essay.

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • Verbal feedback through Q&A and discussion within lectures.
  • Verbal feedback on any course unit issues through TM’s consultation hours.
  • Written feedback on the examination through the Personal Development (Tutorial) Programme.


Recommended reading

Key texts

Knighton, D. (1998) Fluvial forms and processes: A new perspective. London, UK: Hodder Arnold.

Roni, P. and Beechie, T. (eds) (2013) Stream and watershed restoration: A guide to restoring riverine processes and habitats. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Timothy Meadows Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Two hour Lecture. TBC

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