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Network Response To Internal And External Perturbations In Large Sand-bed Braided Rivers

F. Schuurman, M.G. Kleinhans, H. Middelkoop

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Abstract. The intrinsic instability of bars, bifurcations and branches in large braided rivers is a challenge to understand and predict. Even more, the reach-scale effect of human-induced perturbations on the braided channel network is still unresolved. In this study, we used a physics-based model to simulate the hydromorphodynamics in a large braided river and applied different types of perturbations. We analyzed the propagation of the perturbations through the braided channel network. The results showed that the perturbations initiate an instability that propagates in downstream direction by means of bifurcation instability. It alters and rotates the approaching flow of the bifurcations. The propagation celerity is in the same order of magnitude as the theoretical sand wave propagation rate. The adjustments of the bifurcations also change bar migration and reshape, with a feedback to the upstream bifurcation and alteration of the approaching flow to the downstream bifurcation. This way, the morphological effect of a perturbation amplifies in downstream direction. Thus, the interplay of bifurcation instability and asymmetrical reshaping of bars was found to be essential for propagation of the effects of a perturbation. The study also demonstrated that the large-scale bar statistics are hardly affected.