River bank erosion and channel evolution in sand-bed braided reach of River Chenab: role of floods during different flow regimes

Abstract

Braided reaches of large rivers in alluvial plains show major morphological changes, particularly the external bank erosion, due to the flood events. This paper highlights the bank erosion and channel evolution induced by eleven different flood events in a 7-km long reach of the River Chenab, Pakistan. The impact of floods on river bank erosion and channel evolution is analyzed under low and high flow conditions. Flood-induced changes, for river’s external banks and channel evolution, were assessed by processing Landsat ETM+ images in ArcGIS tool, and their inter-relationship is evaluated through regression analysis. The results revealed that the major morphological changes were triggered by the flood events occurred during the high flow or Monsoon season (July–September), whereas the flood events of similar magnitude occurring during low flow season (October–March) did not induce such changes. Mostly, the erosion remained limited to the middle part of the reach, where the branch channel flows along the bank. The average annual bank erosion rates are much higher as compared with a global scale. Data analysis showed a strong correlation between the mean high flows and total bank erosion indicating that Monsoon seasonal flows and floods are responsible for bank erosion. The present study further identifies the river bank locations highly susceptible to erosion by developing the correlation between bank erosion and branch channel progression. Strong correlation for bank erosion could be established with the shift of branch channels position flowing along the banks in braided reaches of sand bed rivers. However, the presence of sand bars along the river banks resulted in reduced erosion that weakens this relationship. The findings of the present study can help develop better understanding about the bank erosion process and constitute a key element to inform and improve river bank management.

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Acknowledgments

The first author was financially supported by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan within the framework of Indigenous Scholarship Program. This financial support is gratefully acknowledged and appreciated. The authors also acknowledge Dr. Matti Kummu, Assistant Professor at Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), Finland, for sharing valuable information on bank erosion during different flow seasons. The paper greatly benefited from the thorough reviews of anonymous referees.

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Correspondence to Muhammad Ashraf.

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Ashraf, M., Bhatti, M.T. & Shakir, A.S. River bank erosion and channel evolution in sand-bed braided reach of River Chenab: role of floods during different flow regimes. Arab J Geosci 9, 140 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12517-015-2114-y

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Keywords

  • Morphological changes
  • Floods
  • River bank erosion
  • Landsat images