River Styles Framework (RSF)

Coming out of Australia, the River Styles Framework divides a river into Geomorphic Process Zones based on a particular zone’s sediment dynamics. Geomorphic attributes are assessed, larger scale interactions between zones are analyzed, and historical data is studied in order to categorize river reaches into particular River Styles, as well as to understand the historical evolution and future trajectories of those reaches. River health is analyzed with respect to a theoretical reference river of the same style, but remediation work aims for a best-possible “ecologically sustainable river” based on the current state.

Parameters Measured:

  • size, shape, elevation & drainage patterns, sediment availability, geology, climate, tectonics, sea-level
  • valley margins, sediment sources, drainage lines, identifiable geomorphic units, vegetation distribution, fixed points (roads, etc.)
  • channel geometry, bank height & character, lateral stability, sediment storage, channel obstruction, vegetation character
  • Channel dimensions & geometry; character, geometry, connectivity of geomorphic units; floodplain characteristics; vegetative associations with each geomorphic unit.
  • Sediment analyzed

Fryirs, K. and Brierley, G., 2013. Geomorphic Analysis of River Systems : An Approach to Reading the Landscape, published by Wiley-Blackwell, UK, 345 pages.  Companion website:

Brierley, G. and K. Fryirs. 2000. River Styles, a Geomorphic Approach to Catchment Characterization: Implications for River Rehabilitation in Bega Catchment, New South Wales, Australia. Environmental Management, 25(6), 661-679

Brierley, G., K. Fryirs, and T. Cohen. 1996. Geomorphology & river ecology in southeastern Australia: an approach to catchment characterisation.

Brierley, G., K. Fryirs, N. Cook, D. Outhet, A. Raine, L. Parsons, et al. 2011. Geomorphology in action: Linking policy with on-the-ground actions through applications of the River Styles framework. Applied Geography, 31(3), 1132-1143

Brierley, G., K. Fryirs, D. Outhet, and C. Massey. 2002. Application of the River Styles framework as a basis for river management in New South Wales, Australia. Applied Geography, 22, 91-122