Flow thresholds for leaf retention in hydrodynamic wakes downstream of obstacles

J.H.F. de Brouwer*, J.P.C. Eekhout, A.A. Besse-Lototskaya, A.J.F. Hoitink, C.J.F. ter Braak, P.F.M. Verdonschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Leaves are the major component of terrestrial litter input into aquatic systems. Leaves are distributed by the flow, accumulate in low flow areas, and form patches. In natural streams, stable leaf patches form around complex structures, such as large woody debris. Until now, little is known about flow conditions under which leaf patches persist. This study aims to quantify flow conditions for stable leaf patches and entrainment of leaf patches. We hypothesize that entraining flow processes, such as turbulence, Reynolds stress, or lift forcing (vertical flow velocity), best explain local leaf retention. This study was performed in an unscaled flume experiment, which conditions coincide with conditions found in low-energetic lowland streams. We positioned a wooden obstacle perpendicular to the flow on the bed of the flume. A leaf patch was positioned downstream from the wooden obstacle. The experiment was performed under 5 flow conditions. We monitored leaf patch cover and near-bed flow conditions in the area downstream of the wooden obstacle. We showed that near-bed flow velocities explain leaf retention better than more complex flow velocity derivatives such as turbulence, Reynolds stress, and vertical flow velocity. The entrainment near-bed flow velocity for leaves ranges from 0.037 to 0.050 m/s. Flow velocities frequently exceed those values, even in low-energetic lowland streams. Therefore, complex structures, such as woody debris, create flow conditions to support stable leaf patches. Thus, adding instead of removing obstacles may be a key strategy in restoring biodiversity in deteriorated streams.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1883
Number of pages10
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2017


  • current velocity
  • flow velocity
  • leaves entrainment
  • leaves transport
  • lowland streams
  • wake


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