Geography & Environment Publications

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Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

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DOI: 10.1002/esp.5744


Geomorphic river design strives for natural resilience by encouraging geomorphic form complexity and morphological processes linked to greater habitat diversity. Increasing availability of high-resolution topographic data and spatial feature mapping methods provide advantages for morphological analysis and river restoration planning. We propose and evaluate an approach to quantifying topographic variability of geomorphic form and pixel-level surface roughness resulting from channel planform geometry differences using spatially continuous variety computation applied to component metrics including flow direction, aspect and planform curvature. We define this as the geomorphic form variation (GFV) approach and found it scalable, repeatable and a multi-stage analytical metric for quantifying physical aspects of river-bed topographic variability. GFV may complement process-based morphological feature mapping applications, hydraulic assessment indices and spatial habitat heterogeneity metrics commonly used for ecological quality evaluation and river restoration. The GFV was tested on controlled synthetic channels derived from River Builder software and quasi-controlled sinuous planform flume experiment channels. Component variety metrics respond independently to specific geometric surface changes and are sensitive to multi-scaled morphology change, including coarser-grained sediment distributions of pixel-level surface roughness. GFV showed systematic patterns of change related to the effects of channel geometry, vertical bed feature (pool-bar) frequency and amplitude, and bar size, shape and orientation. Hotspot analysis found that bar margins were major components of topographic complexity, whereas grain-scale variety class maps further supported the multi-stage analytical capability and scalability of the GFV approach. The GFV can provide an overall variety value that may support river restoration decision-making and planning, particularly when geomorphic complexity enhancement is a design objective. Analysing metric variety values with statistically significant hotspot cluster maps and complementary process-based software and mapping applications allows variety correspondence to systematic feature changes to be assessed, providing an analytical approach for river morphology change comparison, channel design and geomorphic process restoration.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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