Humanized River Systems


Influence of land use change and industry development on the morphdynamics of small rivers between uplands and lowlands: Examples from the Rur River catchment (Northrhine-Westfalia)

  Overview map of the Rur catchment area Copyright: © V. Esser Study area.

Human induced landuse change and the development of different industries and their influence on the morphodynamic of river floodplains in the Rur River catchment are investigated. The Rur River stretches 165 kilometers with a catchment size of 2340 square kilometers and combines a nowadays forested upland up to 600 meters with a lowland dominated by agriculture between 30 and 200 meters above sea level. As in most other river catchments of Central Europe, human activities caused changes in the environment and river morphology. In the Rur River catchment the main river and also its tributaries were influenced by enlargement of settlements, mill dams, deforestation, mining activities, pollutants by industries, construction of dams, re-forestation and relocation of land as well as natural conservation (for instance, National Park Eifel).

  Landscape photographies of the upper reaches of the Rur River, the Rur River dam Schwammenauel, and the middle reaches Copyright: © V. Esser (1) Upper reaches of the Rur River nearby Monschau, (2) upper reaches of the Rur River nearby Hammer, (3) Rur River dam Schwammenauel, (4) middle reaches of the Rur River nearby Jülich.

This project focuses on the influence of land use change and other human activities on the fluvial systems in different times (amongst others, Middle Ages, modern times, present and future) using geoscientific and engineering approaches and methods. This includes e.g. mapping, sampling, sedimentological and geochemical analysis, radiocarbon and 137Cs dating, and numeric modelling of rivers and floodplains including the influence of dams. Emphasis is also the different human impact as well as natural fluvial dynamics in the uplands and lowlands. The interdisciplinary approach shall provide a vison of the Rur River catchment and the human impact from the past to present and future.

Duration 02/2019 - 04/2022
Funding German Research Foundation (DFG) – Grant 418362535
Project partners Prof. Dr. Holger Schüttrumpf – Institute of Hydraulic Engineering
and Water Resources Management, RWTH Aachen University