Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 267–286 | Cite as

Flow-plant interactions at a leaf scale: effects of leaf shape, serration, roughness and flexural rigidity

  • Ismail AlbayrakEmail author
  • Vladimir Nikora
  • Oliver Miler
  • Matthew O’Hare
Research Article


The effects of leaf shape, serration, roughness and flexural rigidity on drag force imposed by flowing water and its time variability were experimentally studied in an open-channel flume at seven leaf Reynolds numbers ranging from 5 to 35 × 103. The study involved artificial leaves of the same surface area but with three shapes (‘elliptic’, ‘rectangular’ and ‘pinnate’), three flexural rigidities, smooth-edge and sawtooth-like serration, and three combinations of surface roughness (two-side rough, one-side rough/one-side smooth, and two-side smooth). Shape was the most important factor determining flow-leaf interactions, with flexural rigidity, serration and surface roughness affecting the magnitude but not the direction of the effect on drag control. The smooth-edge elliptic leaf had a better hydrodynamic shape as it experienced less drag force, with the rectangular leaf showing slightly less efficiency. The pinnate leaf experienced higher drag force than the other leaves due to its complex geometry. It is likely that flow separation from 12 leaflets of the pinnate leaf prevented leaf reconfiguration such as leaflets folding and/or streamlining. Flexural rigidity strongly influenced the leaf reconfiguration and augmented the serration effect since very rigid leaves showed a strong effect of serration. Furthermore, serration changed the turbulence pattern around the leaves by increasing the turbulence intensity. Surface roughness was observed to enhance the drag force acting on the leaf at high Reynolds numbers. The results also suggest that there are two distinctly different flow-leaf interaction regimes: (I) regime of passive interaction at low turbulence levels when the drag statistics are completely controlled by the turbulence statistics, and (II) regime of active interaction at high turbulence levels when the effect of leaf properties on the drag statistics becomes comparable to the turbulence contribution.


Aquatic plants Leaves Drag force Reconfiguration Flexural rigidity River flow 



The work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, Grant F/00152/Z ‘Biophysics of flow-plant interactions in aquatic systems’. The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH, Edinburgh) supplied the strain gauge equipment used in this work. The authors are grateful to Giulia Pagello and Fabio Siniscalchi for their help with the experimental work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ismail Albayrak
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vladimir Nikora
    • 1
  • Oliver Miler
    • 2
  • Matthew O’Hare
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Engineering, Fraser Noble BuildingUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Abt. Limnologie von FlussseenLeibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und BinnenfischereiBerlinDeutschland
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology EdinburghPenicuikUK

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