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Keywords:

  • classification;
  • streamflow;
  • natural flow regime;
  • ecology

ABSTRACT

Hydro-ecological stream classification—the process of grouping streams by similar hydrologic responses and, by extension, similar aquatic habitat—has been widely accepted and is considered by some to be one of the first steps towards developing ecological flow targets. A new classification of 1543 streamgauges in the contiguous USA is presented by use of a novel and parsimonious approach to understand similarity in ecological streamflow response. This novel classification approach uses seven fundamental daily streamflow statistics (FDSS) rather than winnowing down an uncorrelated subset from 200 or more ecologically relevant streamflow statistics (ERSS) commonly used in hydro-ecological classification studies. The results of this investigation demonstrate that the distributions of 33 tested ERSS are consistently different among the classification groups derived from the seven FDSS. It is further shown that classification based solely on the 33 ERSS generally does a poorer job in grouping similar streamgauges than the classification based on the seven FDSS. This new classification approach has the additional advantages of overcoming some of the subjectivity associated with the selection of the classification variables and provides a set of robust continental-scale classes of US streamgauges. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.