|Sorting out river channel patterns|
Kleinhans, M.G. (2010). Sorting out river channel patterns. Prog. Phys. Geogr. 34(3): 287-326
In: Progress in Physical Geography. Sage: London. ISSN 0309-1333; e-ISSN 1477-0296
bank erosion, bar pattern, floodplain sedimentation, riparian vegetation, river channel pattern
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Rivers self-organize their pattern/planform through feedbacks between bars, channels, floodplain and vegetation, which emerge as a result of the basic spatial sorting process of wash load sediment and bed sediment. The balance between floodplain formation and destruction determines the width and pattern of channels. Floodplain structure affects the style and rate of channel avulsion once aggradation takes place. Downstream fining of bed sediment and the sediment balance of fines in the pores of the bed sediment provide the ‘template’ or sediment boundary conditions, from which sorting at smaller scales leads to the formation of distinct channel patterns. Bar patterns provide the template of bank erosion and formation as well as the dynamics of the channel network through bifurcation destabilization. However, so far we have been unable to obtain dynamic meandering in laboratory experiments and in physics-based models that can also produce braiding, which reflects our lack of understanding of what causes the different river patterns.