A Mechanistic Model for Lateral Erosion of Bedrock Channel Banks by Bedload Particle Impacts

Tingan Li, Theodore K. Fuller, Leonard S. Sklar, Karen B. Gran, Jeremy G. Venditti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Bedrock incision plays a key role in determining the pace of landscape evolution. Much is known about how bedrock rivers incise vertically, but less is known about lateral erosion. Lateral erosion is widely thought to occur when the bed is alluviated, which prevents vertical erosion and deflects the downstream transport of bedload particles into channel walls. Here we develop a model for lateral erosion by bedload particle impacts. The lateral erosion rate is the product of the volume eroded per particle impact and the impact rate. The volume eroded per particle impact is modeled by tracking the motion of bedload particles from collision with roughness elements to impacts on the wall. The impact rate on the wall is calculated from deflection rates on roughness elements. The numerical model further incorporates the coevolution of wall morphology, shear stress, and erosion rate. The model predicts the undercut wall shape observed in physical experiments. The nondimensional lateral erosion rate is used to explore how lateral erosion varies under different relative sediment supply (ratio of supply to transport capacity) and transport stage conditions. Maximum lateral erosion rates occur at high relative sediment supply rates (~0.7) and moderate transport stages (~10). The competition between lateral and vertical erosion is investigated by coupling the saltation-abrasion vertical erosion model with our lateral erosion model. The results suggest that vertical erosion dominates under near 75% of supply and transport stage conditions but is outpaced by lateral erosion near the threshold for full bed coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019JF005509
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery (NSERC) Grants to J. V. The code for the model presented here was written by MATLAB and is available in https://researchdata.sfu.ca/pydio_public/64ea25 .

Publisher Copyright:
©2020. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


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