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Keywords:

  • river morphodynamic modelling;
  • floodplain sedimentation;
  • vegetation roughness;
  • river reconstruction;
  • River Waal

Abstract

Suspended-sediment concentration data are a missing link in reconstructions of the River Waal in the early 1800s. These reconstructions serve as a basis for assessing the long-term effects of major interventions carried out between 1850 AD and the early 20th century. We used a 2D physics-based morphodynamic model accounting for the influence of floodplain vegetation to fill in this gap. Historical discharge hydrographs were derived from a correlation between flow discharge records at Cologne and water level measurements of the Rhine branches in the Netherlands, taking into account the discharge distribution between the branches. Historical floodplain sedimentation rates were estimated using old cartographic information and recent geomorphologic field work. The computed historical sedimentation rates are found to be within the range of measured data, which suggests that fine suspended sediment concentrations in the early 1800s were comparable to contemporary ones. The computations show also how vegetation enhances the formation of natural levees close to the main channel and at the same time decreases the sedimentation rates in farther areas of the floodplain. A sensitivity analysis shows suspended sediment composition to have a strong influence on the resulting quantities and patterns of floodplain deposition. The reconstruction has also provided validation of the modelling tools to reproduce the effects of vegetation on sediment dynamics, enabling their implementation to study other cases. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.