MorphSed, a research project funded by the Spanish Ministry, is analysing the morphosedimentary dynamics of a representative human-stressed fluvial system (suffering major local alterations due to gravel mining), their drivers and their impacts on the river’s ecological integrity.The multi-event dataset obtained will enable the first links to be established between physical and ecological processes at scales integrated from the micro-habitat to the reach scale. These links will be a key goal for progress towards the system-scale understanding of the interactions between river disturbance and ecological responses, and provide the basis for an integrated methodology that can be used to aid prediction, management and restoration of human stressed fluvial systems.

Study Sites: River Cinca (upper part)

More information: MorphSed Home Page

Aerial photograph of the Upper River Cinca. Visit MorphSed site to get more details.


SCARCE is a multipurpose project that aims to describe and predict the relevance of global change impacts on water availability, water quality and ecosystem services in Mediterranean river basins of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as their impacts on the human society and economy. Hence, the project has assembled a multidisciplinary team of leading scientists in the fields of hydrology, geomorphology, chemistry, ecology, ecotoxicology, economy, engineering and modelling, in an unknown effort in the CONSOLIDER framework (Spanish Ministry). The project also has the active involvement of Water Authorities and other relevant agents as stakeholders. The project has started on 17th December 2009 and will last 5 years.

RIUS Tasks: RIUS leads Work Package 3 where main tasks are study: (a) Sediment transport dynamics, (b) River’s morphosedimentary structure and physical habitat, (c) Comparison of sedimentary processes and (d) River impacts and global change scenarios.

Study Sites: River Ebro, River Llobregat, River Jucar and River Guadalquivir (all rivers in Spain)

More information: Scarce Home Page

CONSOLIDER study sites: views of different study locations. From left to right: Rivers Huerva and Cinca (Ebro Basin), Rivers Llobregat and Cardener (Llobregat Basin) and Rivers Cabriel and Júcar (Júcar Basin)


SICMEC is an international research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2010-2013). The main goal of SICMEC is to develop a Cascade Flushing Flow Programme ('SICMEC') based on the analysis, integration and modelling of both physical processes and economic parameters of the river basins draining into the Ribarroja Reservoir (River Ebro). The SICMEC represents the starting point for restoration of the hydrosedimentary dynamics of the highly regulated rivers Segre and Cinca and, consequently, optimise the flushing flow programme of the Lower River Ebro that has been operational since 2002. We propose: (i) to design experimental releases from the main reservoirs in these two catchments, (ii) to continue the experimental flushing flow releases in the lower Ebro, and (iii) to examine natural floods that occur during the course of the project. The project will also assess the opportunity costs of withdrawing water for the flushing flows and analyse measures to improve efficiency of water management so as to ameliorate the economic impacts of the experimental floods. Finally, we will develop a decision support tool based on the integration of physical and economic elements.

RIUS Tasks: The project is lead by RIUS.

Study Sites: Ebro Basin (NE Spain)

More information: SICMEC Home Page

The lower River Ebro downstream Flix Dam.

ReesScan (NERC)

ReesScan is a international research project funded by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (2009-2011) and brings together a leading team of river scientists with skills in remote sensing, hydrometry and sedimentology. The aim is to develop improved models of the processes linking channel change in braided rivers to the flood flows that drive their dynamics. The research focuses on the highly dynamic Rees River in Otago, New Zealand.

RIUS Tasks: Members of RIUS participate in the project, where their main tasks are study: (a) Sediment transport and morphosedimentary dynamics and (b) Geomatic techniques applied to fluvial geomorphology.

Study Sites: River Rees (New Zealand)

More information: ReesScan Home Page


Left: Oblique aerial photograph of the study reach in the River Rees. Right: Detrended DEM acquired in October 2010. Topographic data was obtained in stop-go survey mode by means a novel ArgoScan system based on a Terrestial Laser Scan, a dual-frequency GPS, a panoramic camera and on board PC,mounted on an Argo Amphibious ATV (Brasington et al., 2010).


SESAM and SESAMII are joint research projects of institutions in Germany (University of Potsdam, GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam), Spain (University of Lleida, Forest Science Center of Catalonia) and Brazil (University of Ceara, Fortaleza). These projects will quantify and model runoff and suspended sediment transfer paths in dryland regions. Connectivity processes between water and sediment delivering, accepting and transporting compartments, including the analysis of transfer routes and storage capabilities, will be analysed for instrumented meso-scale catchments in Spain and Brazil. Extended multi-scale field monitoring, the quantification of leakiness and landscape fragmentation, the application of innovative sediment tracing techniques, and the identification of major sources, stores and fluxes of sediments through remotely sensed data will result in an enhanced process understanding of connectivity. An existing modelling framework for water and sediment transport, the WASA-SED model, will be extended to account for these phenomena at the intersections of hillslopes, rivers and reservoirs.

RIUS Tasks: Members of RIUS participate in the project, where their main tasks are study sediment production (including dynamics in sediment sources) and transfer paths (including in-channel storage) in Esera-Isabena and Ribera Salada catchments.

Study Sites: Pre-Pyrenees (the Ésera-Isábena Catchments in Aragon and the Ribera Salada Catchment in Catalonia) and NE Brazil (the Aiuaba Experimental Basin and the Bengue Basin in Ceara)

More information: SESAM Home Page

Images form the Isábena River. Modified from Francke's PhD-defense presentation, Potsdam, May 2009

BadlandScan (IEA)

BadlandScan is a small research project (year 2010) granted by the Institute of Altoaragoneses Studies (IEA). The project aims (a) to study changes in badlands morphometry related to rainfall intensity and kinetic energy, and (b) to quantify sediment production and its temporal dynamics during a rainfall season. Badlands topography will be survey before and after rainfall events by means of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS). Regular close-range aerial photography will be obtain by means of a digital camera fixed in a helium balloon (BLIMP). Aerial photography will be used to study badland platform changes and compare those to the ones obtained by novel methodologies driven by TLS. A series of rainfall gauges will be spread over the badland to interpolate rainfall intensity. The research focuses on a small tributary of the Isábena River draining through highly erodible sediments.

RIUS Tasks: The project is lead by RIUS.

Study Sites: River Isábena (Spain)

More information: BadlandsScan Home Page

BadlandScan study site. From left to right: Oblique photography of the badlands, point cloud (million survey observations) obtained by means of Terrestrial Laser Scanning, and close range aerial photography of part of the badlands obtained using a helium ballon (BLIMP).

Fluvial dynamics in the Segre-Ebro basins (ACA)

This is a research contract (2008-2011) between the Catalan Water Authorities (ACA) and the Forest Science Center of Catalonia (CTFC). The ACA will provide a series of resources to the Hydrology Group (RIUS) of the CTFC to develop sampling methodologies and strategies with the aim of control/monitor/study fluvial dynamics (in a broad context of Catalan Rivers). Sampling methodologies and strategies will be designed based on the results/experience obtained in Ribera Salada Experimental Basin. Hydrological processes and sediment transport have been monitored in this experimental basin since 1998. Additionally, long term morphosedimentary changes will be studied in the middle Segre River to determine its physical conditions after human impacts such as gravel mining and damming. Results will be used to inform future restoration programmes in this basin.

Study Sites: River Segre and Ribera Salada (both in Spain)

Views of the monitoring sections in the Ribera Salada Experimental Basin.

Physical causes on the increase in macrophytes in the lower Ebro River  (URS)

This is a research contract (2009-2010) between URS corporation (office in Barcelona, Spain) and the University of Lleida (UdL), with the participation of the Ebro Water Authorities (CHE). The aim is to study the physical causes (hydraulics, channel morphometry and sedimentology) on the increase in macrophytes in the lower Ebro River. 

Study Sites: Lower Ebro River (Spain)

Macrophytes in the lower River Ebro.