Co-evolution of Riparian Vegetation and Channel Dynamics in an Aggrading Braided River System, Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Tal Michal, Aix-Marseille University, CEREGE UMR 7330, Aix en Provence, France and Karen B Gran, Univ Minnesota, Duluth, MN, United States
Increased bank stability by riparian vegetation in braided rivers can decrease bed reworking rates and focus the flow. The magnitude of influence and resulting channel morphology are functions of vegetation strength vs. channel dynamics, a concept encapsulated in a dimensionless ratio between timescales for vegetation growth and channel reworking known as T*. We investigate this relationship in an aggrading braided river at Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, and compare results to numerical and physical models. Gradual reductions in post-eruption sediment loads have reduced bed reworking rates, allowing vegetation to persist year-round and impact channel dynamics on the Pasig-Potrero and Sacobia Rivers. From 2009-2011, we collected data detailing vegetation extent, type, density, and root strength. Incorporating these data into RipRoot and BSTEM models shows cohesion due to roots increased from zero in unvegetated conditions to >10.2 kPa in densely-growing grasses. Field-based parameters were incorporated into a cellular model comparing vegetation growth and sediment mobility effects on braided channel dynamics. The model shows that both low sediment mobility and high vegetation strength lead to less active systems, reflecting trends observed in the field. An estimated T* between 0.8 – 2.3 for the Pasig-Potrero River suggests channels were mobile enough to maintain the braidplain width clear of vegetation and even experience slight gains in area through annual removal of existing vegetation. However, persistent vegetation focused flow and thus aggradation over the unvegetated fraction of braidplain, leading to an aggradational imbalance and transition to a more avulsive state. While physical models predict continued narrowing of the active braidplain as T* declines, the future trajectory of channel-vegetation interactions at Pinatubo as sedimentation rates decline appears more complicated due to strong seasonal variability in precipitation and sediment loads. By 2011, seasonal incision in the dry season had started to occur, lowering the water-table, and impeding vegetation growth.