Managing Meandering Waterways in a Changing World


Just as water moves through a river, rivers themselves move across the landscape. 

Just as water moves through a river, rivers themselves move across the landscape. They carve valleys and canyons, create floodplains and deltas, and transport sediment from the uplands to the ocean.

A new paper out of UC Santa Barbara presents an account of what drives the migration rates of meandering rivers. The two authors compiled a global dataset of these waterways, analyzing how vegetation and sediment load effect channel movement. “We find a global-scale trend between the amount of sediment that rivers carry and how quickly they’re migrating, across all variables,” said lead author Evan Greenberg, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography.

Their results, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, contrast with previous work that emphasized the stabilizing effect of vegetation. In this paper, the researchers highlight how the activity of meandering rivers emerges from the interplay between sediment deposition and bank stabilization by vegetation. Some of the world's most important waterways are meandering rivers, so properly understanding their behavior is crucial to managing these natural phenomena in a changing world.

Read more at University of California - Santa Barbara

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