The effects of floodplain soil heterogeneity on meander planform shape



[1] Past analytical studies of meander planform development have mostly focused on the complexity of the governing equations, i.e., hydrodynamics, and less so on the stream bank resistance to erosion, whose spatial heterogeneity is difficult to describe deterministically. This motivated the use of a Monte Carlo approach to examine the effects of floodplain soils and their distribution on planform development, with the goal of including bank erosion properties in the analysis. Simulated bank erosion rates are controlled by the resistance to hydraulic erosion of the bank soils using an excess shear stress approach. The spatial distribution of critical shear stress across the floodplain is delineated on a rectangular, equidistant grid with varying degrees of variability. The corresponding erodibility coefficient is computed using a field-derived empirical relation. For a randomly disturbed distribution, in which the mean resistance to erosion exponentially increases away from the valley centerline, two relevant parameters are identified: the standard deviation of the critical shear stress distribution, which controls skewness and variability of the channel centerline, and the cross-valley increase in soil resistance, which constrains lateral migration and also affects bend skewness. For a purely random distribution, migrated centerlines exhibit larger variability for increasing spatial scales of floodplain soil heterogeneity. For equal stochastic variability of the corresponding governing parameters, relating meander migration to hydraulic erosion of the bank soils produces more variability and shape complexity than the “classic” bank migration approach of Ikeda et al. (1981), which relates migration rate to excess velocity at the outer bank. Finally, the proposed stochastic approach provides a foundation for estimating a suitable spatial density of measurements to characterize the physical properties of floodplain soils and vegetation.