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Fluvial islands: First stage of development from nonmigrating (forced) bars and woody-vegetation interactions

Wintenberger, C. L. ; Rodrigues, S. ; Breheret, J.-G. ; Villar, M.
Geomorphology, 2015, 246 : 305 - 320.
Fluvial islands can develop from the channel bed by interactions between pioneer trees and bars. Although vegetation recruitment and survival is possible on all bar types, it is easier for trees to survive on nonmigrating bars developed from a change in channel geometry or to the presence of a steady perturbation. This field study details the first stages of development of a vegetated mid-channel, nonmigrating (or forced) bar and its evolution toward an island form. Over six years, analysis of bed topographical changes, vegetation density and roughness, scour and fill depths, sediment grain size and architecture, and excess bed shear stress highlighted a specific signature of trees on topography and grain size segregation. Two depositional processes combining the formation of obstacle marks and upstream-shifting deposition of sediments led to the vertical accretion of the vegetated bar. During the first stage of the bar accretion, bedload sediment supply coming from surrounding channels during floods was identified as a key process modulated by the presence of woody vegetation and a deflection effect induced by the preexisting topography. Grain size segregation between vegetated and bare areas was also highlighted and interpreted as an important process affecting the development of surrounding channels and the degree of disconnection (and hence the speed of development) of a growing island. The heterogeneity of bedload supply can explain why sediment deposition and density of trees are not strictly related. A general conceptual model detailing the first stages of evolution from a bar to an established island is proposed for relatively large lowland rivers. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.