Land managers need consistent terminology and classification frameworks to discuss the ecological status of the land. A common framework used in upland terrestrial systems is an ecological site description (ESD), in which systems are categorized by soils, vegetation, and topography. Creating ESDs in riparian areas must follow a different framework than upland systems because function of riparian systems is driven by hydrology. This study categorized riparian areas by hydrology using stream geomorphology and the Rosgen Stream Classification System. Stream cross sectional and longitudinal profile data were collected from 75 reaches from 19 streams in North Dakota from 2012 to 2018. Each reach (i.e., one full meander) was classified by channel type (E, C, B, F, and G), and stability class (stable and unstable). A stream parameter matrix was constructed using entrenchment ratio, width-to-depth ratio, sinuosity, slope, channel bed material, bank height ratio, and meander width ratio. A multiple response permutation procedure showed that the parameters differed on the basis of both channel type and stability class. An indicator analysis showed that entrenchment ratio, bank height ratio, and meander width ratio were the parameters most influential in separating the reaches by stability class. The strongest indicator stable reach was entrenchment ratio, but meander width ratio and bank height ratio were also significant indicators of stable and unstable reaches, respectively. The parameters used in this study to delineate channel type can be used to consistently discriminate between stable and unstable channels. This information may be a useful tool in describing the states and transitions of prairie stream development in riparian complex ESDs, validating the continued use of Rosgen Stream Classification System in ESD development.
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