Reconstruction of eroded and deposited sediment volumes of the embanked River Waal, the Netherlands, for the period AD 1631-present

N. Hobo, A. Makaske, J. Wallinga, H. Middelkoop

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In the last few centuries humans have modified rivers, and rivers have responded with noticeable changes in sedimentary dynamics. The objective of this study is to assess these responses of the sedimentary dynamics. Therefore, we calculated a sediment budget for eroded and deposited sediment volumes in a similar to 12-km long floodplain section of the largest semi-natural embanked but still dynamic lower Rhine distributary, for similar to 50-years time slices between AD 1631 and present. This is the period during which embanked floodplains were formed by downstream migration of meander bends between confining dykes. Our sediment budget involves a detailed reconstruction of vertical and lateral accretion rates and erosion rates of floodplain sediment. To do so, we developed a series of historical geomorphological maps, and lithogenetic cross-sections. Based on the maps and cross-sections, we divided the floodplain into building blocks representing channel bed and overbank sediment bodies. Chronostratigraphy within the blocks was estimated by interpretation of heavy metal profiles and from optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating results. Sediment budgets were hence calculated as a change of volume of each building block between time steps. The amount of lateral accretion initially increased, as a result of island and sand bar formation following embankment. From the eighteenth century onwards, there was a decrease of lateral processes in time, which is a result of straightening of the river by human activities, and a reduction of water and sediment supply due to the construction of a new upstream bifurcation. With straightening of the river, the floodplain area grew. Artificial fixation of the channel banks after AD 1872 prevented lateral activity. From then on, overbank deposition became the main process, leading to a continuous increase of floodplain elevation, and inherent decrease of flooding frequency and sediment accumulation rate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1301-1318
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • rhine-meuse delta
  • floodplain sedimentation
  • budget
  • variability
  • management
  • catchment
  • storage
  • models
  • quartz
  • uk


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