Characteristics of flow structure of free-surface flow in a partly obstructed open channel with vegetation patch

Xu Feng Yan, Onyx W.H. Wai, Chi Wai Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Free-surface flows over patchy vegetation are common in aquatic environments. In this study, the hydrodynamics of free-surface flow in a rectangular channel with a bed of rigid vegetation-like cylinders occupying half of the channel bed was investigated and interpreted by means of laboratory experiments and numerical simulations. The channel configurations have low width-to-depth aspect ratio (1.235 and 2.153). Experimental results show that the adjustment length for the flow to be fully developed through the vegetation patch in the present study is shorter than observed for large-aspect-ratio channels in other studies. Outside the lateral edge of the vegetation patch, negative velocity gradient (∂u¯ / ∂z< 0) and a local velocity maximum are observed in the vertical profile of the longitudinal velocity in the near-bed region, corresponding to the negative Reynolds stress (- u′w′¯ < 0) at the same location. Assuming coherent vortices to be the dominant factor influencing the mean flow field, an improved Spalart–Allmaras turbulence model is developed. The model improvement is based on an enhanced turbulence length scale accounting for coherent vortices due to the effect of the porous vegetation canopy and channel bed. This particular flow characteristic is more profound in the case of high vegetation density due to the stronger momentum exchange of horizontal coherent vortices. Numerical simulations confirmed the local maximum velocity and negative gradient in the velocity profile due to the presence of vegetation and bed friction. This in turn supports the physical interpretation of the flow processes in the partly obstructed channel with vegetation patch. In addition, the vertical profile of the longitudinal velocity can also be explained by the vertical behavior of the horizontal coherent vortices based on a theoretical argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-832
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Coherent vortex interaction
  • Flow adjustment
  • Numerical modeling
  • Partial distribution
  • Vegetation patch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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