Publication details

Detailed assessment of spatial and temporal variations in river channel changes and meander evolution as a preliminary work for effective floodplain management. The example of Sajo River, Hungary



Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Environmental Management
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Meandering river; Sajo river; Bank erosion; Lateral channel shift; Channel planform morphometry
Description The quasi-natural meandering type of alluvial rivers is quite unusual in Central European watersheds. The lack of extensive regulation allows such rivers to shift along their floodplain and cause erosion of natural and agricultural lands. Description of channel morphometric parameters over decadal timescales allows a better understanding of such river systems like Sajo River (Slovakia-Hungary) where no preliminary work is available regarding channel dynamics. In addition, to just describing the geomorphic processes, the environmental management implications of these meandering rivers need to be investigated as well. Thus, this study represents a bend-scale morphological analysis on the 124 km long section of the Sajo River in the Hungarian territory in eight different periods between 1952 and 2011. Archive aerial imagery, orthophotographs and topographical maps were organized into a database, then GIS-based analyses were performed to quantify the rate and extent of channel shifts, bend development and the area of erosion/accretion. On the bend scale, we have calculated several morphometric parameters (bend length, chord, amplitude, the radius of curvature) to quantify the evolutionary trajectory of reaches. Hydrological time series data were evaluated to reveal its possible role in the processes. Based on the available GIS-data of natural elements and anthropogenic intervention, we delineated 12 different reaches showing similar characteristics, from which six reaches were defined as natural. According to the morphometric parameters of the natural reaches, channel widths became narrower and the planform became more concentrated spatially in most of the reaches while the overall sinuosity of almost all natural reaches increased. Although artificial cutoffs mainly reduced the reach complexity, in some cases, they have accelerated the bend development downstream in the following few years. Erosion and accretion activity were higher in the periods when the discharge was higher than the effective discharge but its effect became less apparent in the second half of the investigated time period. By 1980, major artificial cutoffs and bank protection works were carried out that could have an impact in reducing the potential channel shifting. Based on our results, we propose a possible preservation and some modifications along the Hungarian part of the Say, River reaches to be carried out by the local river management authorities. We conclude that this study provides a detailed demonstration of the Sajo River morphodymanics which can be used for further land planning to avoid harmful consequences of recent bank erosion processes not only along the Sajo River, but other similar rivers in Europe.

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