A vector-based method for bank-material tracking in coupled models of meandering and landscape evolution

Ajay B.S. Limaye, Michael P. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Sinuous channels commonly migrate laterally and interact with banks of different strengths - an interplay that links geomorphology and life and shapes diverse landscapes from the seafloor to planetary surfaces. To investigate feedbacks between meandering rivers and landscapes over geomorphic timescales, numerical models typically represent bank properties using grids; however, this approach produces results inherently dependent on grid resolution. Herein we assess existing techniques for tracking landscape and bank-strength evolution in numerical models of meandering channels and show that grid-based models implicitly include unintended thresholds for bank migration that can control simulated landscape evolution. Building on stratigraphic modeling techniques, we develop a vector-based method for land surface- and subsurface-material tracking that overcomes the resolution-dependence inherent in grid-based techniques by allowing high-fidelity representation of bank-material properties for curvilinear banks and low channel lateral migration rates. We illustrate four specific applications of the new technique: (1) the effect of resistant mud-rich deposits in abandoned meander cutoff loops on meander belt evolution; (2) the stratigraphic architecture of aggrading, alluvial meandering channels that interact with cohesive-bank and floodplain material; (3) the evolution of an incising, meandering river with mixed bedrock and alluvial banks within a confined bedrock valley; and (4) the effect of a bank-height dependent lateral-erosion rate for a meandering river in an aggrading floodplain. In all cases the vector-based approach overcomes numerical artifacts with the grid-based model. Because of its geometric flexibility, the vector-based material tracking approach provides new opportunities for exploring the coevolution of meandering rivers and surrounding landscapes over geologic timescales. Key Points Models of channel-landscape interactions are often grid-resolution dependent We develop a vector-based method for bank-material tracking The vector-based approach improves predictions for landscape evolution

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2421-2437
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • bank strength
  • channel migration
  • numerical modeling


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