Coupled Hydrological/Hydraulic Modelling of River Restoration Impacts and Floodplain Hydrodynamics
1927 - 1948
River Research and Applications
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© 2016 The Authors. River Research and Applications Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Channelization and embankment of rivers has led to major ecological degradation of aquatic habitats worldwide. River restoration can be used to restore favourable hydrological conditions for target species or processes. However, the effects of river restoration on hydraulic and hydrological processes are complex and are often difficult to determine because of the long-term monitoring required before and after restoration works. Our study is based on rarely available, detailed pre-restoration and post-restoration hydrological data collected from a wet grassland meadow in Norfolk, UK, and provides important insights into the hydrological effects of river restoration. Groundwater hydrology and climate were monitored from 2007 to 2010. Based on our data, we developed coupled hydrological/hydraulic models of pre-embankment and post-embankment conditions using the MIKE-SHE/MIKE 11 system. Simulated groundwater levels compared well with observed groundwater. Removal of the river embankments resulted in widespread floodplain inundation at high river flows ( > 1.7 m 3 s −1 ) and frequent localized flooding at the river edge during smaller events ( > 0.6 m 3 s −1 ). Subsequently, groundwater levels were higher and subsurface storage was greater. The restoration had a moderate effect on flood peak attenuation and improved free drainage to the river. Our results suggest that embankment removal can increase river–floodplain hydrological connectivity to form a more natural wetland ecotone, driven by frequent localized flood disturbance. This has important implications for the planning and management of river restoration projects that aim to enhance floodwater storage, floodplain species composition and biogeochemical cycling of nutrients. © 2016 The Authors. River Research and Applications Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.