Spatial variability in bank resistance to erosion on a large meandering, mixed bedrock-alluvial river

Kory M. Konsoer, Bruce L. Rhoads, Eddy J. Langendoen, James L. Best, Mick E. Ursic, Jorge D. Abad, Marcelo H. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial heterogeneity in the erosion-resistance properties of the channel banks and floodplains associated with sediment characteristics, vegetation, or bedrock can have a substantial influence on the morphodynamics of meandering rivers, resulting in highly variable rates of bank erosion and complex patterns of planform evolution. Although past studies have examined the spatial variability in bank erodibility within small rivers, this aspect of the erosion-resistance properties for large rivers remains poorly understood. Furthermore, with the exception of recent numerical modeling that incorporates stochastic variability of floodplain erosional resistance, most models of meandering river dynamics have assumed uniform erodibility of the bank and floodplain materials. The present paper investigates the lateral and vertical heterogeneity in bank material properties and riparian vegetation within two elongate meander loops on a large mixed bedrock-alluvial river using several geotechnical field and laboratory methods. Additionally, the bank stability and toe-erosion numerical model (BSTEM) and repeat terrestrial LiDAR surveys are used to evaluate the capacity of the bank material properties to modify the rates and mechanisms of bank retreat. Results show that the textural properties of the bank materials, soil cohesion, and critical shear stress necessary for sediment entrainment differ substantially between the two bends and are also highly variable within each bend - laterally and vertically. Trees growing along the banks increase the resistance to erosion by contributing to the shear strength of the bank materials and are capable of increasing bank stability along a large river. Locally outcropping bedrock also influences bank erodibility in both bends. The results of this study demonstrate that spatial variability in the erosion-resistance properties of the channel banks is an important factor contributing to spatial variability in the rates and mechanisms of bank erosion determined from short-term studies of bank retreat and long-term analysis of changes in channel planform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-97
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Bank erosion
  • Bedrock-alluvial river
  • Floodplain resistance
  • Meandering
  • Riparian vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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