Morphological environment survey and hydrodynamic modeling of a large bifurcation-confluence complex in Yangtze River, China

Tong Huan Liu, Yi Kui Wang, Xie Kang Wang, Huan Feng Duan, Xu Feng Yan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Since the establishment of the world-class Three Gorges Dam (TGD) across the Yangtze River, China, the downstream reach has experienced a long-term adjustment with regard to the river morphology and hydrodynamics, imposing a profound impact on the environmental conditions of human living and aquatic ecosystem. This study presents an investigation on the river channel morphological characteristics and hydrodynamic environment of a large bifurcation-confluence complex downstream of the TGD through detailed field survey and numerical modeling. Results show that the main stem, before being bifurcated into two sub-channels (the North Channel and the South Channel), experiences a meander, leading to the severe bed scouring near the outer bank (pools) resulted from a high flow mass flux and bed shear stress. Because of being bifurcated, the river width with largely growing may result in the reduction of flow velocity and sediment deposition (riffles), and thereby two plugbars are formed near the entrance of two sub-channels. In the meantime, the velocity-reversal phenomenon (flow velocity and friction velocity) is identified when low flows are transited into high flows. The flow mass flux, however, is always larger in pool regions, which is highly related to water depth. As a result, the topographic steering of flows by riffles, bars and floodplains may have more impact on flow path under low flow conditions, while the bankline shape would become more important under high flows. Furthermore, the topographic steering could play a key role in the pattern of flow separations near the confluence. More interestingly, the confluence flow separation only occurs under low flow conditions and its occurring location shifts upwards the tributary (the North Channel), which differs from observations in previous studies. The visualized numerical results of friction velocity distribution indicate that sediment is more likely to deposit in the North Channel (entrance) with lower friction velocity, implying the potential closure of the sub-channel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139705
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Bifurcation-confluence
  • Discharge ratio
  • Flow separation
  • River center bar
  • Topographic steering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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