Modeling the impact of dam removal on channel evolution and sediment delivery in a multiple dam setting

R.E. Poeppl*, T. Coulthard, S.D. Keesstra, M. Keiler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Dam removal can generate geomorphic disturbances, including channel bed and bank erosion and associated abrupt/pulsed release and downstream transfer of reservoir sediment, but the type and rate of geomorphic response often are hard to predict. The situation gets even more complex in systems which have been impacted by multiple dams and a long and complex engineering history. In previous studies one-dimensional (1-D) models were used to predict aspects of post-removal channel change. However, these models do not consider two-dimensional (2-D) effects of dam removal such as bank erosion processes and lateral migration. In the current study the impacts of multiple dams and their removal on channel evolution and sediment delivery were modeled by using a 2-D landscape evolution model (CAESAR-Lisflood) focusing on the following aspects: patterns, rates, and processes of geomorphic change and associated sediment delivery on annual to decadal timescales. The current modeling study revealed that geomorphic response to dam removal (i.e., channel evolution and associated rates of sediment delivery) in multiple dam settings is variable and complex in space and time. Complexity in geomorphic system response is related to differences in dam size, the proximity of upstream dams, related buffering effects and associated rates of upstream sediment supply, and emerging feedback processes as well as to the presence of channel stabilization measures. Modeled types and rates of geomorphic adjustment, using the 2-D landscape evolution model CAESAR-Lisflood, are similar to those reported in previous studies. Moreover, the use of a 2-D method showed some advantages compared to 1-D models, generating spatially varying patterns of erosion and deposition before and after dam removal that provide morphologies that are more readily comparable to field data as well as features like the lateral re-working of past reservoir deposits which further enables the maintenance of sediment delivery downstream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-549
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Sediment Research
Issue number6
Early online date26 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Complexity
  • Landscape evolution modeling
  • Legacy effects
  • Reservoir and river management
  • River engineering
  • Sediment pulses

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling the impact of dam removal on channel evolution and sediment delivery in a multiple dam setting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this