19. Animals and the Geomorphology of Gravel-Bed Rivers

  1. Michael Church2,
  2. Pascale M. Biron3 and
  3. André G. Roy4
  1. Stephen P. Rice,
  2. Matthew F. Johnson and
  3. Ian Reid

Published Online: 17 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781119952497.ch19

Gravel-Bed Rivers: Processes, Tools, Environments

Gravel-Bed Rivers: Processes, Tools, Environments

How to Cite

Rice, S. P., Johnson, M. F. and Reid, I. (2012) Animals and the Geomorphology of Gravel-Bed Rivers, in Gravel-Bed Rivers: Processes, Tools, Environments (eds M. Church, P. M. Biron and A. G. Roy), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781119952497.ch19

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Department of Geography, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

  2. 3

    Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  3. 4

    Département de géographie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Author Information

  1. Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 20 JAN 2012

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470688908

Online ISBN: 9781119952497



  • crayfish;
  • ecosystem engineering;
  • river habitat;
  • substrate stability;
  • zoogeomorphology


Deeper consideration of the meaning and relevance of habitat is necessary and inevitable as interdisciplinary river science reveals the interactive nature of the relation between fluvial environments and the organisms that live in them. Following some embellishment of Lapointe's critique of ‘habitat’ we illustrate this interaction by reviewing the role of animals, particularly fish (including salmonids) and benthic invertebrates, as geomorphological agents in gravel-bed rivers. As an example of the detailed laboratory and field experiments that are required to understand animal impacts on gravel-bed rivers, we report results from our own work with signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus), which demonstrate the influence that small animals can have on bed sediment characteristics and particle mobility. These include experiments designed to link laboratory findings to field situations and to evaluate the impact of conspecific behavioural interactions on gravel particle movement. The widespread distribution and high densities of small geomorphological actors, like crayfish, in gravel-bed rivers suggest that extremely large quantities of energy are collectively expended in modifying river bed sediments and near-bed hydraulics. In turn, there is the potential for reach and catchment scale geomorphological impacts that are as yet undiscovered and unquantified. We present a conceptual model that summarises the links between animal activities and sediment fluxes in gravel-bed rivers that can guide much-needed empirical investigations of the mechanisms and consequences of fish and invertebrate behaviours for gravel-bed river geomorphology.