Landscape Evolution Modelling of naturally dammed rivers

Gorp, W. van; Temme, A.J.A.M.; Baartman, J.E.M.; Schoorl, J.M.


Natural damming of upland river systems, such as landslide or lava damming, occurs worldwide. Many dams fail shortly after their creation, while other dams are long-lived and therefore have a long-term impact on fluvial and landscape evolution. This long-term impact is still poorly understood and landscape evolution modelling (LEM) can increase our understanding of different aspects of this response. Our objective was to simulate fluvial response to damming, by monitoring sediment redistribution and river profile evolution for a range of geomorphic settings.We used LEM LAPSUS, which calculates runoff erosion and deposition and can deal with non-spurious sinks, such as dam-impounded areas. Because fluvial dynamics under detachment-limited and transport-limited conditions are different, we mimicked these conditions using low and high erodibility settings, respectively. To compare the relative impact of different dam types, we evaluated five scenarios for each landscape condition: one scenario without a dam and four scenarios with dams of increasing erodibility. Results showed that dam-related sediment storage persisted at least until 15 000 years for all dam scenarios. Incision and knickpoint retreat occurred faster in the detachment-limited landscape than in the transport-limited landscape. Furthermore, in the transport-limited landscape, knickpoint persistence decreased with increasing dam erodibility. Stream capture occurred only in the transport-limited landscape due to a persisting floodplain behind the dam and headward erosion of adjacent channels. Changes in sediment yield variation due to stream captures did occur but cannot be distinguished from other changes in variation of sediment yield. Comparison of the model results with field examples indicates that the model reproduces several key phenomena of damming response in both transport-limited and detachment-limited landscapes. We conclude that a damming event which occurred 15 000 years ago can influence present-day sediment yield, profile evolution and stream patterns.