Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives. Freshwater is a precious resource on the Earth's surface. It is also home to many diverse fish, plant, and crustacean species. The habitats that freshwater ecosystems provide consist of lakes, rivers, ponds, wetlands, streams, and springs. Erosion is the process where rocks are broken down by natural forces such as wind or water. There are two main types of erosion: chemical and physical. In physical erosion, the rock breaks down but its chemical composition remains the same, such as during a landslide or bioerosion, when plants take root and crack rocks.
Explore the process of erosion with this collection of resources. Of that, only about 1. Most of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams. This water is the lifeline of ecosystems around the world.
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Skip to content Donate Account. Encyclopedic Entry Vocabulary. A waterfall is a river or other body of water's steep fall over a rocky ledge into a plunge pool below.
Waterfalls are also called cascade s. The process of erosion , the wearing away of earth, plays an important part in the formation of waterfalls. Waterfalls themselves also contribute to erosion. Often, waterfalls form as streams flow from soft rock to hard rock. This happens both laterally as a stream flows across the earth and vertically as the stream drops in a waterfall. In both cases, the soft rock erodes, leaving a hard ledge over which the stream falls.
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A fall line is the imaginary line along which parallel rivers plunge as they flow from uplands to lowlands. Many waterfalls in an area help geologist s and hydrologist s determine a region's fall line and underlying rock structure.
As a stream flows, it carries sediment. The sediment can be microscopic silt , pebbles, or even boulders. Sediment can erode stream beds made of soft rock, such as sandstone or limestone. Eventually, the stream's channel cuts so deep into the stream bed that only a harder rock, such as granite, remains. Waterfalls develop as these granite formations form cliffs and ledges. A stream's velocity increases as it nears a waterfall, increasing the amount of erosion taking place.
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The movement of water at the top of a waterfall can erode rocks to be very flat and smooth. Rushing water and sediment topple over the waterfall, eroding the plunge pool at the base. The crashing flow of the water may also create powerful whirlpool s that erode the rock of the plunge pool beneath them.
The resulting erosion at the base of a waterfall can be very dramatic, and cause the waterfall to "recede. This causes the waterfall to "recede" many meters upstream. The waterfall erosion process starts again, breaking down the boulders of the former outcropping. Erosion is just one process that can form waterfalls. An earthquake , landslide , glacier , or volcano may also disrupt stream beds and help create waterfalls.
There is not a standard way to classify waterfalls. Some scientists classify waterfalls based on the average volume of water in the waterfall. The estimated volume of water discharged from Inga Falls is 25, cubic meters per second , cubic feet per second. Another popular way of classifying waterfalls is by width.
One of the widest waterfalls is Khone Phapheng Falls, Laos. At the Khone Phapheng Falls, the Mekong River flows through a succession of relatively shallow rapids. The width of the Khone Phapheng Falls is about 10, meters 35, feet. Waterfalls are also classified by height. The water, from the Gauja River, often does not reach the bottom. The fall is so long, and so steep, that air pressure is stronger often than the water pressure of the falls. One of the most popular, if least scientific, ways to classify waterfalls is by type. A waterfall's type is simply the way the descends. Most waterfalls fit more than one category.
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A block waterfall descends from a wide stream. Niagara Falls, in the U. A cascade is a waterfall that descends over a series of rock steps. The waterfall is safe enough for children to play in the water. A cataract is a powerful, even dangerous, waterfall.
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Among the widest and wildest of cataracts are the thundering waters of the Iguazu River on the border between Brazil and Argentina. He is the brother of author James Frey. Contact Bob Frey. Streaming and Download help. If you like Bob Frey, you may also like:. Jula by Spirits of the Red City. Bandcamp Album of the Day Aug 8, Meet Me at the River by Dawn Landes.
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