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Keywords:

  • bank erosion rates;
  • fluvial processes;
  • meander migration;
  • rivers/streams;
  • stream power;
  • surface water

ABSTRACT: Bank erosion along a river channel determines the pattern of channel migration. Lateral channel migration in large alluvial rivers creates new floodplain land that is essential for riparian vegetation to get established. Migration also erodes existing riparian, agricultural, and urban lands, sometimes damaging human infrastructure (e.g., scouring bridge foundations and endangering pumping facilities) in the process. Understanding what controls the rate of bank erosion and associated point bar deposition is necessary to manage large alluvial rivers effectively. In this study, bank erosion was proportionally related to the magnitude of stream power. Linear regressions were used to correlate the cumulative stream power, above a lower flow threshold, with rates of bank erosion at 13 sites on the middle Sacramento River in California. Two forms of data were used: aerial photography and field data. Each analysis showed that bank erosion and cumulative effective stream power were significantly correlated and that a lower flow threshold improves the statistical relationship in this system. These correlations demonstrate that land managers and others can relate rates of bank erosion to the daily flow rates of a river. Such relationships can provide information concerning ecological restoration of floodplains related to channel migration rates as well as planning that requires knowledge of the relationship between flow rates and bank erosion rates.