Distinct patterns of bank erosion in a navigable regulated river

Gonzalo Duró*, Alessandra Crosato, Maarten G. Kleinhans, Timotheus G. Winkels, Hessel A.G. Woolderink, Wim S.J. Uijttewaal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Distinct bankline patterns appeared after the removal of protection works along a navigable reach of the Meuse River. A series of oblique embayments now dominate the riverine landscape after ten years of bank erosion, but their location and asymmetry cannot be explained yet. This work analyses and integrates field measurements of flow, ship waves, bank composition, bed topography and historical maps to explain the observed patterns along two reaches of the river. An extraordinary low-water-level event generated by a ship accident provided the unique opportunity to also analyse the subaqueous bank topography. The results indicate that the formation of oblique embayments arises from the combination of floodplain heterogeneity, structured by scroll-bar deposits, and the regulation of water levels, resulting in ship-wave attack at a narrow range of bank elevation for 70% of the time. Substrate erodibility acts on the effectiveness of trees to slow down local bank erosion rates, which is possibly enhanced by a positive feedback between woody roots and cohesive soil. The strong regulation of water levels and the waves generated by the intense ship traffic produce an increasingly long mildly-sloping terrace at the bank toe and progressively dominate the bank erosion process. This study demonstrates the important role of floodplain and scroll bar formation in shaping later bank erosion, which has implications for predictive numerical models, restoration strategies, and understanding the role of vegetation in bank erosion processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-374
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Early online date13 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • bank erosion
  • floodplain heterogeneity
  • navigable river
  • restoration


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