Planform dynamics of braided streams



The high dynamism and complexity of braided networks poses a series of open questions, significant for river restoration and management. The present work is aimed at the characterization of the morphology of braided streams, in order to assess whether the system reaches a steady state under constant flow conditions and, in that case, to determine how it can be described and on which parameters it depends. A series of 14 experimental runs were performed in a laboratory physical model with uniform sand, varying the discharge and the longitudinal slope. Planimetric and altimetric configurations were monitored in order to assess the occurrence of a steady state. A set of parameters was considered, such as the braid-plain width and the number and typology of branches and nodes. Results point out that a relationship exists between braiding morphology and two dimensionless parameters, related to total water discharge and stream power. We found that network complexity increases at higher values of water discharge and a larger portion of branches exhibits morphological activity. Results are then compared to the outputs of a simple one-dimensional model, that allows to easily predict the average network complexity, once the bed topography is known. Model computations permit also the investigation of the effect of water discharge variations and to compare different width definitions. The at-a-station variability of planimetric parameters shows a peculiar behaviour, both regarding number of branches and wetted width. In particular, the analysis of the relationship between width and discharge highlighted relevant differences in comparison to single thread channel. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.