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Keywords:

  • braided river;
  • hydraulic model;
  • New Zealand

Abstract

This paper reports the application of a two-dimensional hydraulic model to a braided reach of the Avoca River, New Zealand. Field measurements of water surface elevation, depth and velocity obtained at low flow were used to validate the model and to optimize the parameterization of bed friction. The main systematic trends in the measured flow variables are reproduced by the model. However, field data are characterized by greater spatial variability than model output reflecting differences in the scale of processes measured in the field and represented by the model. Additional model runs were conducted to simulate flow patterns within the study reach at five higher discharges. The purpose of these simulations was to evaluate the potential for using two-dimensional hydraulic models to quantify the reach-scale hydraulic characteristics of braided rivers and their dependence on discharge. Changes in flow depth and velocity with increasing discharge exhibit trends that are consistent with the results of previous field investigations, although the tendency for the wetted area of the braidplain within particular depth and velocity categories to remain fixed as discharge rises, as has been noted for several braided rivers in New Zealand, was not observed. Modelled shear stress frequency distributions fit gamma functions that incorporate a distribution shape parameter, the value of which follows clear systematic trends with rising discharge. These results illustrate both the problems of, and potential for, using two-dimensional hydraulic models in braided river applications. This leads to something of a paradox in that while such models provide a means of generating hydraulic information that would be difficult to obtain in the field at an equivalent spatial resolution, they are, due to the problems inherent to data collection, difficult to validate conclusively. Despite this limitation, the application of spatially distributed models to investigate relationships between discharge and reach-scale form and process variables appears to have considerable potential. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.