Upland and lowland (freshwater ecology)

Upland And Lowland (Freshwater Ecology)

Upland and lowland (freshwater ecology)

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In studies of the ecology of freshwater rivers, habitats are classified as upland and lowland.


Upland habitats are cold, clear, rocky, fast flowing rivers in mountainous areas; lowland habitats are warm, slow flowing rivers found in relatively flat lowland areas, with water that is frequently coloured by sediment and organic matter.

These classifications overlap with the geological definitions of "upland" and "lowland". In geology an "upland" is generally considered to be land that is at a higher elevation than the alluvial plain or stream terrace, which are considered to be "lowlands". The term "bottomland" refers to low-lying alluvial land near a river.

Many freshwater fish and invertebrate communities around the world show a pattern of specialisation into upland or lowland river habitats. Classifying rivers and streams as upland or lowland is important in freshwater ecology as the two types of river habitat are very different, and usually support very different populations of fish and invertebrate species.


In freshwater ecology, upland rivers and streams are the fast flowing rivers and streams that drain elevated or mountainous country, often onto broad alluvial plains (where they become lowland rivers). However, altitude is not the sole determinant of whether a river is upland or lowland. Arguably the most important determinants are that of stream power and course gradient. Rivers with a course that...
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