Morphodynamic evolution of low-energy rivers during the Holocene

PhD project Jasper Candel as part of the NWO-funded RiverCare project

Low-energy rivers are often classified as non-dynamic, with a stream power too low to induce lateral migration. However, low-energy rivers often have a high sinuosity and sharp bends. Unknown is how and why the sinuous planform evolved and whether the sinuosity is a result of lateral migration of channels. Improved understanding of the evolution of low-energy rivers provides inspiration for their restoration, in which low-energy rivers are often re-meandered, regardless of their potential for lateral migration.

Figure 1 Studying low-energy river bend formation using a ground-penetrating radar.

The aim of this project is to identify the mechanisms that lead to the formation of highly sinuous planforms in low-energy rivers during the Holocene. We will focus on

  • 1) low-energy rivers in peat-filled valley systems (Candel et al., 2017)
  • 2) low-energy meandering rivers in self-formed heterogeneous floodplains

  • 3) a channel pattern change from laterally stable to meandering

  • 4) improving the stability diagram (Kleinhans & Van den Berg, 2011) in order to predict the lateral activity of rivers

  • 5) the relation between hydraulic processes, channel planform and floodplain formation in low-energy rivers.

Figure 2 Conceptual model of oblique aggradation in a peat-filled valley, explaining the sinuous planform formation during the Holocene (Candel et al., 2017).

This knowledge contributes to the development of sustainable and cost-effective low-energy river restoration approaches. These should be aiming at restoring the natural morphodynamic processes, as alignment with these processes is expected to increase robustness and reduce maintenance efforts.


Candel, J. H. J., Makaske, B., Storms, J. E. A., and Wallinga, J. (2017) Oblique aggradation: a novel explanation for sinuosity of low-energy streams in peat-filled valley systems. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, 42: 2679–2696. doi: 10.1002/esp.4100.

More Information

please contact me if you need any information about my project (see contact details above).

Start project: December 1, 2014

End project: November 1, 2019

Partners:   STOWA, Alterra, Witteveen+Bos