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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5198

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Geomorphic Classification of the Lower Platte River, Nebraska

By Caroline M. Elliott, Brittany L. Huhmann, and Robert B. Jacobson

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Geomorphic attributes were collected from natural color aerial orthophotography to develop a multiscale classification for the downstream-most 220 kilometers of the Platte River in eastern Nebraska. The intent of this classification is to define discrete reaches that have geomorphic characteristics favorable to endangered interior least terns (Sternula antillarum) and threatened piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) who use riverine sandbars for nesting habitat. Annual to daily fluctuations in discharge present a challenge to characterizing emergent sandbar habitat directly from existing aerial orthophotography for the Platte River. Therefore, this classification is based on geomorphic measures that are relatively insensitive to prevailing river discharge but may be physically related to emergent sandbar locations. Such features include valley width, channel width, and sinuosity. The results provide four-cluster and seven-cluster classifications for the Lower Platte River based on naturally occurring, statistically determined clusters of features. The classification was validated using tern and plover nest data for 2006–08. Forty-nine percent of the nest locations fell within the same class type in the four-cluster classification, which represented 18 percent of the study area. This class is found primarily in the Eastern Platte River Gorge, downstream from Salt Creek and upstream from the junction of the Platte River with the Missouri River.

Posted September 2, 2009

For additional information contact:
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Suggested citation:

Suggested citation: Elliott, C.M., Huhmann, B.L., Jacobson, R.B., 2009, Geomorphic Classification of the Lower Platte River, Nebraska: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5198, 29 p.




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