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Numerical Study on the Effect of Bank Vegetation on the Hydrodynamics of the American River under Flood Conditions

Kevin Flora, Christian Santoni,

Abstract: Vegetation can have an appreciable impact on the hydrodynamics and scour potential in natural rivers, but this effect is generally unaccounted for in high-fidelity computational fluid dynamic models. In this study, we have incorporated trees into the flow domain using two different approaches to study the hydrodynamics of the American River in Northern California under flood conditions. In the first approach, we resolved numerous trees as discrete objects. The second method incorporated a vegetation model into our in-house numerical model to treat the vegetation as a momentum sink along the banks. The flood flow of both cases was modeled using the large-eddy simulation. The computed hydrodynamics results of the cases were compared with a baseline case, which did not include any trees. Although both the tree-resolving and vegetation model approaches compared well with one another with respect to the flow field, they significantly altered the computed river flow dynamics and bed shear stress near the banks and the midwidth of the river compared with that of the no-tree case. Both methods that accounted for the resistance of the trees obtained lower and higher bed shear stresses and velocities along the banks and the midwidth of the river, respectively, than that of the baseline case. This research identified the important role that vegetation plays in natural rivers and provided researchers and engineers with the conceptual tools needed to incorporate vegetation into numerical models to improve the accuracy of the model results.
Keywords: natural rivers / baseline case / numerical model / incorporated a vegetation / stress / banks / trees / flood

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