An Ecogeomorphic Framework Coupling Sediment Modeling With Invasive Riparian Vegetation Dynamics

Jordan T. Gilbert, Andrew C. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Feedbacks between geomorphic processes and riparian vegetation in river systems are an important control on fluvial morphodynamics and on vegetation composition and distribution. Invasion by nonnative riparian species alters these feedbacks and drives management and restoration along many rivers, highlighting a need for ecogeomorphic models to assist with understanding feedbacks between plants and fluvial processes, and with restoration planning. In this study, we coupled a network-scale sediment model (Sediment Routing and Floodplain Exchange; SeRFE) that simulates bank erosion and sediment transport in a spatially explicit manner with a recruitment potential analysis for a species of riparian vegetation (Arundo donax) that has invaded river systems and wetlands in Mediterranean climates worldwide. We used the resulting ecogeomorphic framework to understand both network-scale sediment balances and the spread and recruitment of A. donax in the Santa Clara River watershed of Southern California. In the coupled model, we simulated a 1-year time period during which a 5-year recurrence interval flood occurred in the mainstem Santa Clara River. Outputs identify key areas acting as sources of A. donax rhizomes, which are subsequently transported by flood flows and deposited in reaches downstream. These results were validated in three study reaches, where we assessed postflood geomorphic and vegetation changes. The analysis demonstrates how a coupled model approach is able to highlight basin-scale ecogeomorphic dynamics in a manner that is useful for restoration planning and prioritization and can be adapted to analogous ecogeomorphic questions in other watersheds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JF006071
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • ecogeomorphology
  • invasive vegetation
  • river connectivity
  • sediment modeling
  • watershed disturbance


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