Environmental Management

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 929–942 | Cite as

The Topographic Design of River Channels for Form-Process Linkages

  • Rocko A. Brown
  • Gregory B. Pasternack
  • Tin Lin


Scientists and engineers design river topography for a wide variety of uses, such as experimentation, site remediation, dam mitigation, flood management, and river restoration. A recent advancement has been the notion of topographical design to yield specific fluvial mechanisms in conjunction with natural or environmental flow releases. For example, the flow convergence routing mechanism, whereby shear stress and spatially convergent flow migrate or jump from the topographic high (riffle) to the low point (pool) from low to high discharge, is thought to be a key process able to maintain undular relief in gravel bedded rivers. This paper develops an approach to creating riffle-pool topography with a form-process linkage to the flow convergence routing mechanism using an adjustable, quasi equilibrium synthetic channel model. The link from form to process is made through conceptualizing form-process relationships for riffle-pool couplets into geomorphic covariance structures (GCSs) that are then quantitatively embedded in a synthetic channel model. Herein, GCSs were used to parameterize a geometric model to create five straight, synthetic river channels with varying combinations of bed and width undulations. Shear stress and flow direction predictions from 2D hydrodynamic modeling were used to determine if scenarios recreated aspects of the flow convergence routing mechanism. Results show that the creation of riffle-pool couplets that experience flow convergence in straight channels requires GCSs with covarying bed and width undulations in their topography as supported in the literature. This shows that GCSs are a useful way to translate conceptualizations of form-process linkages into quantitative models of channel form.


River restoration design Riffle-pool Channel topography Flow convergence routing Synthetic rivers 



The authors would like to acknowledge Jason White for reviewing an early draft of this manuscript as well as four anonymous reviewers. Financial support was provided by a Henry A. Jastro Graduate Research Award and a research grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (award # W912HZ-11-2-0038). Funding for G.B. Pasternack was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project number # CA-D-LAW-7034-H.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Science AssociatesSacramentoUSA

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