Turbulence at water-vegetation interface in open channel flow: Experiments with natural-like plants

Gerardo Caroppi, Kaisa Västilä, Juha Järvelä, Paweł Rowiński, Maurizio Giugni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Riparian shrubs and trees present a complex, seasonally variable morphology, with flexible stems and leaves efficiently adapting to the flow forcing (reconfiguration). The aim of this paper is to investigate how foliage and reconfiguration affect the flow and mixing in a partly vegetated channel. Specific attention was placed on the velocity statistics, onset and coherence of turbulent structures, and lateral momentum transport at the horizontal interface between vegetation and open water. The experimental flume arrangement was novel in that it allowed investigating the lateral shear layer induced by flexible riparian plants. The natural-like vegetation consisted of emergent woody plants and a grassy understory, with density, morphology and reconfiguration behavior comparable to those found in real riparian areas. Investigations were conducted under foliated and leafless conditions to determine the seasonality effects. The mean and turbulent flow structure was determined with acoustic Doppler velocimetry, and dynamic plant motions were investigated from video footage. The presence of foliage enhanced the drag discontinuity at the interface, resulting in more pronounced velocity gradients between the vegetated and open areas compared to the leafless conditions. Foliation induced stronger shear layer-scale mixing, whereas, under leafless conditions, the local mixing induced by stems was more important. The reconfiguration decreased the coherence of the two-dimensional large-scale vortices at the interface while their characteristic frequency was consistent with the canonical mixing layer theory. Our results indicated that shear layer dynamics in partly vegetated channels was influenced strongly by morphology and reconfiguration of complex plants, with more efficient lateral momentum transport at the interface in the foliated conditions than previously reported for shear layers induced by simpler vegetation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-191
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Vegetation
  • Reconfiguration
  • Water-vegetation interface
  • Shear layer
  • Turbulent structures
  • Acoustic Doppler velocimetry

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