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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-31
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 May 2018

Research article | 15 May 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Late Holocene channel pattern change from laterally stable to meandering caused by climate and land use changes

Jasper H. J. Candel1, Maarten G. Kleinhans2, Bart Makaske1, Wim Z. Hoek2, Cindy Quik1, and Jakob Wallinga1 Jasper H. J. Candel et al.
  • 1Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, P.O. Box 47, 6700AA, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Utrecht, P.O. Box 80125, 3508TC, the Netherlands

Abstract. River channel patterns may alter due to changes in hydrological regime, related to changes in climate or land cover. Such changes are well documented for transitions between meandering and braiding rivers, whereas channel pattern changes between laterally stable and meandering rivers are poorly documented and understood. We identified a river that was laterally almost stable throughout the Holocene until the Late Middle Ages, after which large meanders formed at lateral migration rates of about 2myr−1. The lateral stability before the Late Middle Ages was proven using a combination of coring information, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), radiocarbon (14C) dating, and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. Our objective of this work is to identify the possible causes for the meander initiation. We carried out a unique reconstruction of bankfull discharge as a function of time, based on channel dimensions that were reconstructed from the scroll bar sequence using coring information and GPR data, combined with chronological constraints from historical maps and OSL dating. Empirical channel and bar pattern models were used to determine the potential for meandering and to identify the causes of meander initiation. Several potential causes were investigated, varying from discharge regime changes to increased sediment input. Our investigation shows that bankfull discharge was two to five times higher during the meandering phase compared to the laterally stable phase. This increase likely reflects climate changes related to the Little Ice Age and land use changes in the catchment, in particular as a result of peat reclamation and exploitation. We hypothesize that many low-energy meandering rivers were laterally stable during most of the Holocene, reflecting relatively low peak discharges during a stable climate and with limited human impact. However, channel deposits associated with such stable phases are poorly preserved, due to recent increase in dynamics of such systems. Considering the importance of climate and land use changes on the river channel pattern, successful river restoration requires an integral approach that includes scenarios of climate and land use changes in the catchment.

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Jasper H. J. Candel et al.
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