Stability analysis of ecomorphodynamic equations

F. Bärenbold, B. Crouzy, P. Perona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to shed light on the influence of riverbed vegetation on river morphodynamics, we perform a linear stability analysis on a minimal model of vegetation dynamics coupled with classical one‐ and two‐dimensional Saint‐Venant‐Exner equations of morphodynamics. Vegetation is modeled as a density field of rigid, nonsubmerged cylinders and affects flow via a roughness change. Furthermore, vegetation is assumed to develop following a logistic dependence and may be uprooted by flow. First, we perform the stability analysis of the reduced one‐dimensional framework. As a result of the competitive interaction between vegetation growth and removal through uprooting, we find a domain in the parameter space where originally straight rivers are unstable toward periodic longitudinal patterns. For realistic values of the sediment transport parameter, the dominant longitudinal wavelength is determined by the parameters of the vegetation model. Bed topography is found to adjust to the spatial pattern fixed by vegetation. Subsequently, the stability analysis is repeated for the two‐dimensional framework, where the system may evolve toward alternate or multiple bars. On a fixed bed, we find instability toward alternate bars due to flow‐vegetation interaction, but no multiple bars. Both alternate and multiple bars are present on a movable, vegetated bed. Finally, we find that the addition of vegetation to a previously unvegetated riverbed favors instability toward alternate bars and thus the development of a single course rather than braiding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1070-1088
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2016


  • Ecomorphodynamics
  • Riparian vegetation
  • River bars
  • Stability analysis

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