Simulating bank erosion over an extended natural sinuous river reach using a universal slope stability algorithm coupled with a morphodynamic model

Yannick Y. Rousseau, Marco Van De Wiel, Pascale M. Biron

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    Meandering river channels are often associated with cohesive banks. Yet only a few river modelling packages include geotechnical and plant effects. Existing packages are solely compatible with single-threaded channels, require a specific mesh structure, derive lateral migration rates from hydraulic properties, determine stability based on friction angle, rely on nonphysical assumptions to describe cutoffs, or exclude floodplain processes and vegetation. In this paper, we evaluate the accuracy of a new geotechnical module that was developed and coupled with Telemac-Mascaret to address these limitations. Innovatively, the newly developed module relies on a fully configurable, universal genetic algorithm with tournament selection that permits it (1) to assess geotechnical stability along potentially unstable slope profiles intersecting liquid-solid boundaries, and (2) to predict the shape and extent of slump blockswhile considering mechanical plant effects, bank hydrology, and the hydrostatic pressure caused by flow. The profiles of unstable banks are altered while ensuring mass conservation. Importantly, the new stability module is independent of mesh structure and can operate efficiently along multithreaded channels, cutoffs, and islands. Data collected along a 1.5-km-long reach of the semialluvial Medway Creek, Canada, over a period of 3.5 years are used to evaluate the capacity of the coupled model to accurately predict bank retreat in meandering river channels and to evaluate the extent to which the new model can be applied to a natural river reach located in a complex environment. Our results indicate that key geotechnical parameters can indeed be adjusted to fit observations, even with a minimal calibration effort, and that the model correctly identifies the location of the most severely eroded bank regions. The combined use of genetic and spatial analysis algorithms, in particular for the evaluation of geotechnical stability independently of the hydrodynamic mesh, permits the consideration of biophysical conditions for an extended river reach with complex bank geometries, with only a minor increase in run time. Further improvements with respect to plant representation could assist scientists in better understanding channel-floodplain interactions and in evaluating channel designs in river management projects.

    Publisher Statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geomorphology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geomorphology, [295, (2017)] DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.08.008

    © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)690-704
    Number of pages15
    Early online date8 Aug 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2017


    • Meandering
    • River morphodynamics
    • Fluvial modelling
    • Geotechnical slope stability


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