Predicting channel patterns

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The proposed distinction between meandering and braided river channel patterns, on the basis of bankfull specific stream power and bed material size, is analysed and rejected. Only by using regime-based estimates of channel widths (rather than actual widths) has discrimination been achieved, and it is argued that this procedure is unacceptable. An alternative is to explore the patterning processes underlying the marked pattern scatter on bankfull stream power/bed material size plots. Of the five sets of patterning processes, large-scale bedform development and stability is seen as especially important for meandering and braiding. For gravel-bed rivers, bedforms developed at around or above bankfull stage appear important for pattern generation, with braiding relating to higher excess shear stress and Froude number. There seems to be an upper threshold to both meandering and braiding which is achieved at extreme discharges and steep gradients, as on steep alluvial fans, rather than for the rivers with available flow data here considered. For sand-bed rivers with greater excess shear stress, the equivalent upper plane bed threshold may occur below bankfull, with bed material mobility and bedform modification occurring over a wider range of sub-bankfull discharges. Sand-bed channel margin outlines appear to be less perturbed by bedform effects than gravel bed planforms, and they may have naturally straight or sinuous planforms. Bedform relief may nevertheless lead to some being designated as braided when viewed at low flows. It is concluded that the use of a single-stage stream power measure and bed material size alone is unlikely to achieve meandering/braiding discrimination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
Issue number3-4
Early online date24 Aug 2001
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2001


  • channel pattern
  • stream power
  • meandering
  • braiding
  • bedforms
  • grain size


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