Crevasse Splays Versus Avulsions: A Recipe for Land Building With Levee Breaches

Jaap H. Nienhuis*, Torbjörn E. Törnqvist, Christopher R. Esposito

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Natural-levee breaches can not only initiate an avulsion but also, under the right circumstances, lead to crevasse splay formation and overbank sedimentation. The formative conditions for crevasse splays are not well understood, yet such river sediment diversions form an integral part of billion-dollar coastal restoration projects. Here we use Delft3D to investigate the influence of vegetation and soil consolidation on the evolution of a natural-levee breach. Model simulations show that crevasse splays heal because floodplain aggradation reduces the water surface slope, decreasing water discharge into the flood basin. Easily erodible and unvegetated floodplains increase the likelihood for channel avulsions. Denser vegetation and less potential for soil consolidation result in small crevasse splays that are not only efficient sediment traps but also short-lived. Successful crevasse splays that generate the largest land area gain for the imported sediment require a delicate balance between water and sediment discharge, vegetation root strength, and soil consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4058-4067
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018


  • crevasse splay
  • Delft3D
  • river avulsion
  • sediment diversion
  • soil consolidation
  • vegetation

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