Vegetation controls on channel stability in the Bell River, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Rowntree, Kate and Dollar, Evan Stephen John (1999) Vegetation controls on channel stability in the Bell River, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 24 (2). pp. 127-134. ISSN 0197-9337



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Channel instability has occurred in the Bell River in the form of meander cutoffs, a number of which have occurred since 1952. Increased sediment loading from widespread gully erosion in the catchment has been proposed as the trigger for this instability. Willow species of the Salix family, in particular S. caprea, have been planted along the banks in an effort to prevent further channel shifting. This study reports the results of an investigation into the effect of vegetation on channel form and stability over a 17 km stretch of channel. Results indicate that riparian vegetation has significant effects on channel form which have implications for channel stability. Riparian vegetation increases bank stability and reduces channel cross-sectional area, thereby inducing stability at flows less than bankfull. Evidence indicates that narrow stable stretches are associated with relatively high levels of riparian vegetation. Wider, unstable channels are associated with relatively less riparian vegetation. The effectiveness of riparian vegetation relative to bank sediments was investigated. A dense growth of willows was found to have an equivalent effect to banks with a silt-clay ratio of about 70 per cent. The channel narrowing induced by vegetation may contribute to channel shifting at high flows. The reduced channel capacity is thought to result in more frequent overbank flooding which may ultimately lead to channel avulsion. Thus where increased sediment loading is pushing the channel towards instability, vegetation may be effective in imparting local stability, but it is unable to prevent long-term channel shifts, and may rather help to push the system towards more frequent avulsions.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:riparian vegetation; bank erosion; bank stability; channel avulsion; stabilization; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geography
ID Code:468
Deposited On:20 Nov 2006
Last Modified:01 Aug 2012 08:04
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