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Ecohydraulic modelling of anabranching rivers

Entwistle, Neil; Heritage, George; Milan, David


Neil Entwistle

George Heritage


In this paper we provide the first quantitative evidence of the spatial complexity of habitat diversity across the flow regime for locally anabranching channels and their potential increased biodiversity value in comparison to managed single‐thread rivers. Ecohydraulic modelling is used to provide evidence for the potential ecological value of anabranching channels. Hydraulic habitat (biotopes) of an anabranched reach of the River Wear at Wolsingham, UK, is compared with an adjacent artificially straightened single‐thread reach downstream. Two‐dimensional hydraulic modelling was undertaken across the flow regime. Simulated depth and velocity data were used to calculate Froude number index, known to be closely associated with biotope type, allowing biotope maps to be produced for each flow simulation using published Froude number limits. The gross morphology of the anabranched reach appears to be controlling flow hydraulics, creating a complex and diverse biotope distribution at low and intermediate flows. This contrasts markedly with the near uniform biotope pattern modelled for the heavily modified single‐thread reach. As discharge increases the pattern of biotopes altered to reflect a generally higher energy system, interestingly however, a number of low energy biotopes were activated through the anabranched reach as new subchannels became inundated and this process creates valuable refugia for macroinvertebrates and fish, during times of flood. In contrast, these low energy areas were not seen in the straightened single‐thread reach. Model results suggest that anabranched channels have a vital role to play in regulating flood energy on river systems and in creating and maintaining hydraulic habitat diversity.


Entwistle, N., Heritage, G., & Milan, D. (2019). Ecohydraulic modelling of anabranching rivers. River Research and Applications, 35(4), 353-364.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 2, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 8, 2019
Publication Date 2019-05
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 17, 2019
Journal River Research and Applications
Print ISSN 1535-1459
Electronic ISSN 1535-1467
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 4
Pages 353-364
Keywords Anabranched channel; Biotope; Floodplain re-naturalisation; LiDAR DTM
Public URL
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Published article (902 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 The Authors River Research and Applications Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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