Comparison of Flexible and Rigid Vegetation Induced Shear Layers in Partly Vegetated Channels

Gerardo Caroppi*, Kaisa Västilä, Paola Gualtieri, Juha Järvelä, Maurizio Giugni, Paweł M. Rowiński

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Natural riparian vegetation generally presents a complex hydrodynamic behavior governed by plant morphology and flexibility. By contrast, hydrodynamic processes in partly vegetated channels are conventionally simulated by using simplified model vegetation, such as arrays of rigid cylinders. The aim of this study is to investigate the impacts of embedding natural plant features in the experimental simulation of flow in partly vegetated channels. Unique comparative experiments were carried out with both reconfiguring vegetation made of natural-like shrubs and grasses, and with rigid cylinders. While the lateral distributions of flow properties presented a high similarity governed by the shear layer differential velocity ratio, the bulk vegetative drag, and the presence of large-scale vortices, the flexibility-induced mechanisms of natural-like vegetation markedly affected the flow at the interface. Differences in plant morphology and spacing, and the dynamic motion of flexible foliated plants induced deeper vortex penetration into the vegetation. The normalized shear penetration was 6–10 times greater than observed for rigid cylinders, resulting in wider zones significantly exchanging momentum with the adjacent open water. The efficiency of lateral momentum transport for flexible foliated vegetation was up to 40% greater than the corresponding rigid cylinder case. Overall, the results indicated that improving the representativeness of model vegetation is a critical step toward the accurate simulation of hydrodynamic and transport processes in natural settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020WR028243
Number of pages17
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • momentum transport
  • partly vegetated channels
  • reconfiguration
  • shear layer
  • turbulence
  • vegetation


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