The influence of a vegetated bar on channel-bend flow dynamics

Sharon Bywater-Reyes, Rebecca M. Diehl, Andrew C. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Point bars influence hydraulics, morphodynamics, and channel geometry in alluvial rivers. Woody riparian vegetation often establishes on point bars and may cause changes in channel-bend hydraulics as a function of vegetation density, morphology, and flow conditions. We used a two-dimensional hydraulic model that accounts for vegetation drag to predict how channel-bend hydraulics are affected by vegetation recruitment on a point bar in a gravel-bed river (Bitterroot River, Montana, United States). The calibrated model shows steep changes in flow hydraulics with vegetation compared to bare-bar conditions for flows greater than bankfull up to a 10-year flow (Q10), with limited additional changes thereafter. Vegetation morphology effects on hydraulics were more pronounced for sparse vegetation compared to dense vegetation. The main effects were (1) reduced flow velocities upstream of the bar, (2) flow steered away from the vegetation patch with up to a 30g% increase in thalweg velocity, and (3) a shift of the high-velocity core of flow toward the cut bank, creating a large cross-stream gradient in streamwise velocity. These modeled results are consistent with a feedback in channels whereby vegetation on point bars steers flow towards the opposite bank, potentially increasing bank erosion at the mid- and downstream ends of the bend while simultaneously increasing rates of bar accretion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-503
Number of pages17
JournalEarth Surface Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 14 2018


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