Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Neil Steven Entwistle, University of Salford, Salford, HD4, United Kingdom, George Leonard Heritage, Technical Director, Hydromorphology, Aecom, Liverpool, United Kingdom, David Milan, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom and Stephen Tooth, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
Many large rivers in southern Africa are characterised by a macro-channel cut 10 – 20 m into the ancient planation surface. This has resulted in a variable channel morphology strongly influenced by bedrock outcrops. The influence of bedrock upon flow hydraulics and sediment transport often results in a repeat sequence of alluvial channel types behind bedrock obstructions. This study investigates the hydraulic controls on channel type sequencing on the Sabie River, which drains a 6500 km2 semi-arid catchment of the Lowveld of South Africa and Mozambique. Aerial LIDAR data within the Kruger National Park was interrogated to isolate a bedrock influenced anastomosing reach, together with its associated alluvial sequences up- and downstream. These data were used to create a 2m DEM and a 2D flow model (JFLOW) was used to simulate a sequence of flows from 20 m3s-1 to 5000 m3s-1, with spatial data on water surface, flow depth and channel velocity extracted from the model.

Water surface data revealed the strong gradient control exerted by the bedrock influenced anastomosed channel, creating hydraulic conditions suitable for deposition upstream and restricting sedimentation downstream. Steepening of the gradient through the anastomosing reach resulted in altered hydraulics and a changed pattern of sedimentation. At moderate discharges, flow is distributed efficiently across numerous interconnected channels, over low berms and islands, promoting sedimentation. Similarly the backwater effect encourages deposition of fine sediments upstream to create and maintain the alluvial sequence. Under higher flows, water levels rise significantly in the confined upstream reach and shear stress exceeds the threshold necessary to strip stored sediment. In contrast, conditions within the anastomosed reach remain less energetic due to the continued effect of flow distribution. Under extreme flow conditions the bedrock influence is drowned out resulting in dramatically increased energy levels and a general stripping of soft sediment regardless of initial channel type or location. This hydraulic sequencing helps to explain development and longevity of crucial riverine forest habitat across the anastomosing channel types whilst this development is absent in the more sensitive alluvial reaches upstream.