The urban stream syndrome is an almost universal physical and ecological response of streams to catchment urbanization. Altered channel geomorphology is a primary symptom that includes channel deepening, widening and instability. While the common approach is to treat the symptoms (e.g. modifying and stabilizing the channel), many stream restoration objectives will not be achieved unless the more vexing problem, treating the cause, is addressed in some way. Research demonstrates that the dominant cause of geomorphic change in streams in urban catchments is an altered flow regime and increase in the volume of stormwater runoff. Thus, managers can choose to treat the symptoms by modifying and controlling the channel to accommodate the altered flow regime, or treat the cause by modifying the flow regime to reduce the impact on channel morphology. In both cases treatments must, at the least, explicitly consider hydrogeomorphology—the science of the linkages between various hydrologic and geomorphic processes—to have a chance of success. This paper provides a review of recent literature (2010 to early 2015) to discuss fluvial hydrogeomorphology in the management of streams subject to urbanization. We suggest that while the dominant approach is focused on combating the symptoms of catchment urbanization (that we refer to as channel reconfiguration), there is increasing interest in approaches that attempt to address the causes by using stormwater control measures at a range of scales in the catchment (e.g. flow-regime management). In many settings in the oft-constrained urban catchment, effective management of stream morphology may require multiple approaches. To conclude, we identify five research areas that could inform urban hydrogeomorphology, one of the most challenging of which is the extent to which the volume of excess urban stormwater runoff can be reduced to mitigate the impact on stream geomorphology.
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