Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Critical dependence of morphodynamic models of fluvial and tidal systems on empirical downslope sediment transport


The morphological development of fluvial and tidal systems is forecast more and more frequently by models in scientific and engineering studies for decision making regarding climate change mitigation, flood control, navigation and engineering works. However, many existing morphodynamic models predict unrealistically high channel incision, which is often dampened by increased gravity-driven sediment transport on side-slopes by up to two orders of magnitude too high. Here we show that such arbitrary calibrations dramatically bias sediment dynamics, channel patterns, and rate of morphological change. For five different models bracketing a range of scales and environments, we found that it is impossible to calibrate a model on both sediment transport magnitude and morphology. Consequently, present calibration practice may cause an order magnitude error in either morphology or morphological change. We show how model design can be optimized for different applications. We discuss the major implications for model interpretation and a critical knowledge gap.


Baar, A. W., Boechat Albernaz, M., van Dijk, W. M., & Kleinhans, M. G. (2019). Critical dependence of morphodynamic models of fluvial and tidal systems on empirical downslope sediment transport. Nature communications, 10(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 26, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 25, 2019
Publication Date 2019-12
Deposit Date Dec 6, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, -0001
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Article Number 4903
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Physics and Astronomy; General Chemistry
Public URL
Additional Information Received: 24 June 2019; Accepted: 26 September 2019; First Online: 25 October 2019; : The authors declare no competing interests.


Published article (2.3 Mb)

Publisher Licence URL

You might also like

Downloadable Citations