Growth dynamics of braided gravel-bed river deltas in New Zealand
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This research has been undertaken to further our knowledge of decade-to-century timescale braided, gravel-bed river delta growth dynamics. The study included: a review of available literature; field studies; the development of microscale models for two study deltas; and the development of a simple numerical model incorporating movement of braided river channels across a delta topset (varying the location of sediment delivery to the delta).
Results from the microscale modelling showed that successful physical modelling requires well-defined fixed boundaries and, ideally, good historical aerial photography for the estimation of the model time scale. A complex braided gravel-bed river delta system composed of two merging deltas entering a deep, low-energy receiving basins was able to be successfully modelled to provide valuable information on delta growth dynamics. However, a microscale model of a delta prograding into shallow receiving basins, with a large supply of fine sediment, was more difficult to calibrate and assess (partly due to limited field data), and was considered less reliable.
The simple rule-based numerical model ‘DELGROW’, developed to simulate a braided river system entering a deep, low-energy body of water, requires a known sediment supply rate, as well as information on the braided river topography, submerged delta foreset, and lakebed bathymetry. Unlike simple 1-d width-averaged geometric models, DELGROW takes into consideration barriers (e.g. islands) as well as relatively complex converging braided river delta configurations. By changing the sediment supply, or modifying the river system, the response of the river system to various scenarios can also be assessed.
Microscale models and DELGROW appear to realistically simulate decade-to-century timescale growth of braided gravel-bed river deltas entering a deep, low-energy, receiving basin. Both of these modelling methods initially use the supplied sediment to try and eliminate any riverbed irregularities (e.g. low areas), before continuing to advance and deposit sediment in a more evenly-distributed manner, whilst taking into consideration irregularities due to barriers, and asymmetric sediment sources such as merging deltas. Neither model can reliably predict locations of bank erosion, or channel avulsions that divert flow and sediment outside of the fixed model boundaries.