Changing near-stream land use and river channel morphology in the Venezuelan Andes

Diana L. Karwan, J. David Allan, Kathleen M. Bergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The shape of a river channel is linked to surrounding land use through interacting hydrologic and geologic processes. This study analyzes the relationship between the change in nearstream land use and the shape of the adjacent river channel over time. Three watersheds in the foothills of the Venezuelan Andes that have experienced differing degrees of development were studied to determine river channel width, sinuosity, and position relative to surrounding land use. Change in land use over time was obtained from multiple-date aerial photographs (1946 and 1980) referenced to 1996 Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery, and verified by field inspection. Measurements of land-use type and amount and river channel morphology from the two dates were made using geographic information system (GIS) methods. The three watersheds differed in the extent of deforestation, the location of remaining forested land, and how much land-use change had already occurred by 1946. Change in river channel morphology was greatest at the most deforested sites. Valley shape and channel constraint also had a discernible effect on change in channel morphology. This study introduces a method for analyzing change in coupled terrestrial-aquatic systems based on multiple-date, remotely sensed data and GIS analysis of spatial properties. The results document human impacts on river channels through a comparison of multiple watersheds over a 35-year time interval.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1579-1587
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Aerial photography
  • Channel morphology
  • Geographic information systems
  • Land-use change
  • Remote sensing
  • Riparian
  • Rivers
  • Watershed


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