Geomorphic and vegetation changes in a meandering dryland river regulated by a large dam, Sauce Grande River, Argentina

Research paper by Ana Casado, Jean-Luc Peiry, Alicia M. Campo

Indexed on: 04 Jun '16Published on: 31 May '16Published in: Geomorphology


This paper investigates post-dam geomorphic and vegetation changes in the Sauce Grande River, a meandering dryland river impounded by a large water-conservation dam. As the dam impounds a river section with scarce influence of tributaries, sources for fresh water and sediment downstream are limited. Changes were inspected based on (i) analysis of historical photographs/imagery spanning pre- (1961) and post-dam (1981, 2004) channel conditions for two river segments located above and below the dam, and (ii) field survey of present channel conditions for a set of eight reference reaches along the river segments. Whilst the unregulated river exhibited active lateral migration with consequent adjustments of the channel shape and size, the river section below the dam was characterized by (i) marked planform stability (93 to 97%), and by (ii) vegetation encroachment leading to alternating yet localized contraction of the channel width (up to 30%). The present river displays a moribund, stable channel where (i) redistribution of sediment along the river course no longer occurs and (ii) channel forms constitute a remnant of a fluvial environment created before closing the dam, under conditions of higher energy. In addition to providing new information on the complex geomorphic response of dryland rivers to impoundment, this paper represents the very first geomorphic assessment of the regulated Sauce Grande and therefore provides an important platform to underpin further research assessing the geomorphic state of this highly regulated dryland river.

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