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

Baar, A. W.; Boechat Albernaz, M.; van Dijk, W. M.; Kleinhans, M. G.


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Dr Anne Baar
Post-doctoral Research Associate

M. Boechat Albernaz

W. M. van Dijk

M. G. Kleinhans


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), Article 4903.

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 Oct 27, 2022
Journal Nature Communications
Electronic ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Article Number 4903
Keywords Geomorphology; Hydrology; Sedimentology
Public URL
Publisher 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)

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© The Author(s) 2019. Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the CreativeCommons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

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