USGS Washington Water Science Center
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Geomorphology is the study of the formation and evolution of landforms on Earth's surface. In the Pacific Northwest, volcanoes, tectonic movement, glaciers, rain, snow, wind, vegetation, animals, and people all shape the landscape at different scales of time and space. Of particular interest in the region is the form and processes of rivers, a branch of the science termed fluvial geomorphology. Rivers are extremely important to the people, plants, and animals in the Pacific Northwest, providing water for ecosystems and transporting sometimes large amounts of sediment downstream.
To understand how rivers move and change over time, the USGS is studying river hydraulics, sediment transport in rivers from the mountains to the ocean, the role of large wood in influencing river shape, impacts on the aquatic ecology and fish in rivers, and how river flooding worsens or improves over time.