Exploring the role of trees in the evolution of meander bends: The Tagliamento River, Italy: TREES AND MEANDER BENDS EVOLUTION

Simone Zen, Angela M. Gurnell, Guido Zolezzi, Nicola Surian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

To date, the role of riparian trees in the formation of scroll bars, ridges, and swales during the evolution of meandering channels has been inferred largely from field observations with support from air photographs. In situ field observations are usually limited to relatively short periods of time, whereas the evolution of these morphological features may take decades. By combining field observations of inner bank morphology and overlying riparian woodland structure with a detailed historical analysis of airborne LiDAR data, panchromatic, and color images, we reconstruct the spatial and temporal evolution of the morphology and vegetation across four meander bends of the Tagliamento River, Italy. Specifically we reveal (i) the appearance of deposited trees and elongated vegetated patches on the inner bank of meander bends following flood events; (ii) temporal progression from deposited trees, through small to larger elongated vegetated patches (pioneer islands), to their coalescence into long, linear vegetated features that eventually become absorbed into the continuous vegetation cover of the riparian forest; and (iii) a spatial correspondence between the resulting scrolls and ridge and swale topography, and tree cover development and persistence. We provide a conceptual model of the mechanisms by which vegetation can contribute to the formation of sequence of ridges and swales on the convex bank of meander bends. We discuss how these insights into the biomorphological processes that control meander bends advance can inform modeling activities that aim to describe the lateral and vertical accretion of the floodplain during the evolution of vegetated river meanders.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)5943-5962
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
Early online date5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • scroll bars
  • ridges and swales
  • bank accretion
  • riparian forest
  • remote sensing

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