Modelling river history and evolution

T. J. Coulthard, M. J. Van De Wiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last few decades, a suite of numerical models has been developed for studying river history and evolution that is almost as diverse as the subject of river history itself. A distinction can be made between landscape evolution models (LEMs), alluvial architecture models, meander models, cellular models and computational fluid dynamics models. Although these models share some similarities, there also are notable differences between them, which make them more or less suitable for simulating particular aspects of river history and evolution. LEMs embrace entire drainage basins at the price of detail; alluvial architecture models simulate sedimentary facies but oversimplify flow characteristics; and computational fluid dynamics models have to assume a fixed channel form. While all these models have helped us to predict erosion and depositional processes as well as fluvial landscape evolution, some areas of prediction are likely to remain limited and short-term owing to the often nonlinear response of fluvial systems. Nevertheless, progress in model algorithms, computing and field data capture will lead to greater integration between these approaches and thus the ability to interpret river history more comprehensively. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2123-2142
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1966
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Alluvial architecture
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Landscape evolution
  • Numerical models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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