The onset of sediment transport in vegetated channels predicted by turbulent kinetic energy

J. Q. Yang, H. Chung, H. M. Nepf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


This laboratory study advances our understanding of sediment transport in vegetated regions, by describing the impact of stem density on the critical velocity, Ucrit, at which sediment motion is initiated. Sparse emergent vegetation was modeled with rigid cylinders arranged in staggered arrays of different stem densities. The sediment transport rate, Qs, was measured over a range of current speeds using digital imaging, and the critical velocity was selected as the condition at which the magnitude of Qs crossed the noise threshold. For both grain sizes considered here (0.6–0.85 mm and 1.7–2 mm), Ucrit decreased with increasing stem density. This dependence can be explained by a threshold condition based on turbulent kinetic energy, kt, suggesting that near-bed turbulence intensity may be a more important control than bed shear stress on the initiation of sediment motion. The turbulent kinetic energy model unified the bare bed and vegetated channel measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11,261-11,268
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 16 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by NSF grant EAR 1414499. The data in this study are available in excel format upon request from the authors. The authors would like to thank John Trowbridge and other Woods Hole scientists for providing insightful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
©2016. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • critical condition
  • incipient velocity
  • sediment transport
  • turbulence
  • vegetation


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