Let the river erode! Enabling lateral migration increases geomorphic unit diversity

Williams, R.D. , Bangen, S., Gillies, E., Kramer, N., Moir, H. and Wheaton, J. (2020) Let the river erode! Enabling lateral migration increases geomorphic unit diversity. Science of Total Environment, 715, 136817. (doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136817) (PMID:32040992)

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River restoration practice frequently employs conservative designs that create and maintain prescribed, static morphology. Such approaches ignore an emerging understanding of resilient river systems that typically adjust their morphology in response to hydrologic, vegetative and sediment supply changes. As such, using increased dynamism as a restoration design objective will arguably yield more diverse and productive habitats, better managed expectations, and more self-sustaining outcomes. Here, we answer the following question: does restoring lateral migration in a channelised river that was once a wandering gravel-bed river, result in more diverse in-channel geomorphology? We acquired pre- and post-restoration topographic surveys on a segment of the Allt Lorgy, Scotland to quantify morphodynamics and systematically map geomorphic units, using Geomorphic Unit Tool (GUT) software. GUT implements topographic definitions to discriminate between a taxonomy of fluvial landforms that have been developed from an extension of the River Styles framework, using 3-tiered hierarchy: (1) differentiation based on stage or elevation relative to channel; (2) classification of form based on shape (mound, bowl, trough, saddle, plane, wall); and (3) mapping geomorphic units based on attributes (e.g., position and orientation). Results showed restoration increased geomorphic unit diversity, with the Shannon Diversity Index increasing from 1.40 pre-restoration (2012) to 2.04 (2014) and 2.05 (2016) after restoration. Channel widening, due to bank erosion, caused aerial coverage of in-channel geomorphic units to increase 23% after restoration and 6% further in the two-years following restoration. Once bank protection was removed, allowing bank erosion yieled a local supply of sediment to enable the formation and maintenance of lateral and point bars, riffles and diagonal bar complexes, and instream wood created structurally-forced pools and riffles. The methodology used systematically quantifies how geomorphic unit diversity increases when a river is given back its freedom space. The framework allows for testing restoration design hypotheses in post-project appraisal.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was undertaken whilst RW was funded through a Royal Academy of Engineering collaborative research secondment to cbec (RAE ISS1617/46) and a Scottish Alliance of Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES) grant to visit Utah State University.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Williams, Professor Richard
Authors: Williams, R.D., Bangen, S., Gillies, E., Kramer, N., Moir, H., and Wheaton, J.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Science of Total Environment
ISSN (Online):1879-1026
Published Online:21 January 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V.
First Published:First published in Science of the Total Environment 715:136817
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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