Upstream and Downstream Boundary Conditions Control the Physical and Biological Development of River Deltas

A. Piliouras, W. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Relative sea level rise is depleting coastal land. Success in coastal restoration depends on understanding interactions between physical and biological processes that influence landscape change. We present results from flume experiments examining the coevolution of vegetation and delta channel networks. We show that channel mobility—controlled by upstream and downstream boundary conditions and delta size—controls vegetation colonization. The spatial patterns of plants in turn control the stability and spatial distribution of channels. Experiments with low-channel mobility develop large, dense plant patches that become denser over time and stabilize channels. Experiments with more mobile channels have sparse vegetation patterns that limit vegetation growth within existing patches, maintaining sparse, patchy vegetation. Thus, the ecogeomorphic development of deltas depends on the rate of channel lateral migration and avulsion, suggesting that upstream and downstream boundary conditions control both the physical and biological evolution of coastal landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11188-11196
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume46
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 28 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

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