Publication Details

Nanson, G. C. & Croke, J. C. (1992). A genetic classification of floodplains. Geomorphology, 4 (6), 459-486.


Floodplains are formed by a complex interaction of fluvial processes but their character and evolution is essentially the product of stream power and sediment character. The relation between a stream's ability to entrain and transport sediment and the erosional resistance of floodplain alluvium that forms the channel boundary provides the basis for a genetic classification of floodplains. Three classes are recognised: (1) high-energy non-cohesive; (2) medium-energy non-cohesive; and (3) low-energy cohesive floodplains. Thirteen derivative orders and suborders, ranging from confined, coarse-grained, non-cohesive floodplains in high-energy environments to unconfined fine-grained cohesive floodplains in low-energy environments, are defined on the basis of nine factors (mostly floodplain forming processes). These factors result in distinctive geomorphological features (such as scroll bars or extensive backswamps) that distinguish each floodplain type in terms of genesis and resulting morphology. Finally, it is proposed that, because floodplains are derivatives of the parent stream system, substantial environmental change will result in the predictable transformation of one floodplain type to another over time.