Original paper

Discrimination of channel patterns for alluvial rivers based on the sediment concentration to water discharge ratio

Xu, Jiongxin; Yan, Ming


Although the sediment concentration to water discharge ratio (ζ) is an empirical coefficient, it contains manifold physical meanings. Based on data from 107 Chinese alluvial rivers, a study has been made to relate river channel patterns to the ζ index. These rivers can be classified as four channel patterns, i. e., braided, low concentration meandering, hyperconcentration meandering and island. It was found that, when mean annual water discharge (Q) is given, the ζ index for hyperconcentration meandering rivers is the highest, for braided rivers the second, for low-concentration meandering rivers the third, and for island rivers the lowest. A discriminating model has been proposed for the above four channel patterns, based on the relationship between ζ and Q. Three threshold lines between the four channel patterns are well identified. The limits between channel patterns have close relation with the phenomenon of “double-thresholds for fill-scour behaviors of rivers with wide-range sediment concentrations”, which was previously described by the author. The limit between hyperconcentrationmeandering rivers and braided rivers reflects the upper threshold of the double-thresholds phenomenon, and the limit between braided rivers and low-concentration meandering rivers reflects the lower threshold of the double-thresholds phenomenon. Of the 107 Chinese rivers studied, 84.7% are correctly predicted using the proposed model. Based on some Chinese rivers, the ζ index is related to specific stream power (Ω) and channel sinuosity, and the result indicates that the complicated variation of Ω with ζ is one of the causes for the complicated variation of river channel patterns with the ζ index. This complicated variation may be regarded as a complex response of river channel pattern to the varying ζ index. This study also shows that the clay content in river bank material is controlled by the ζ index to some degree. Thus, the ζ index also contains some information of erosion-resistance of channel boundary materials. Through the effect of ζ on channel boundary material, channel pattern is affected by ζ. The proposed discriminating model may be used to predict the trend of channel pattern changes. Based on the data of Q and ζ, the location of a given river for the pre- and post-impact periods can be plot in the ζ-Q diagram. If the river crosses the threshold line between two channel patterns, for instance the line between braided pattern and low concentration meandering pattern, or vice versa, channel pattern transformation may be expected to occur.


channel patternsdiscrimination of channel patternssediment concentration to water discharge ratiostream power of riverschannel boundary condition of riverscomplex response