WHAF Key Concepts


River Continuum Concept


The river continuum concept emphasizes the longitudinal dimension of the stream ecosystem. The RCC proposes a progressive shift, from headwaters to mouth, of physical gradients and energy inputs and accompanying shift in trophic organization and biological communities (Vannote et al, 1980, graphic Stream Corridor, FISRWG).

The River Continuum Concept (RCC) describes the entire river system as a continuously integrating series of physical gradients and associated biotic adjustments as the river flows from headwater to mouth.

Within the stream system, longitudinal connectivity refers to the pathways along the entire length of a stream. As the physical gradient changes from source to mouth, chemical systems and biological communities shift and change in response. The River Continuum Concept can be applied to this linear cycling of nutrients, continuum of habitats, influx of organic materials, and dissipation of energy.

For example:

In the mid-reaches,

The river grows and the gradient lessens with few riffles and rapids.