GEP  Vol.9 No.4 , April 2021
Impact of Partially Covered Vegetation on the Lateral Velocity Distribution of Open Channel Flow
Abstract: The vegetation affects the flow process and water environment, thus drawing increasing attention to river environment management. Previous research is mainly focused on flow through vegetation in a channel with fully covered single-layer vegetation. However, in natural rivers, different heights’ vegetation often co-exists along one or two sides of a river. This paper experimentally studies how the flow velocity distribution is affected by the two different-layered vegetation allocated along two sides of an open-channel. The vegetation was simulated by dowels of two heights, 10 cm and 20 cm, and arranged in a parallel pattern along two sides of a flume under partially submerged conditions. The velocities along a cross-section were measured by Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry (ADV). The results of lateral velocity distribution show that a strong shear layer exists between vegetation and non-vegetation zones, indicating the retarding effect of vegetation. Meanwhile, as the flow depth increases, the relative velocity in the free flow zone decreases compared with that in the vegetated region, indicating that vegetation resistance to the flow decreases as increasing depth under the same vegetation configuration. These ?ndings would help understand the role of multi-layered vegetation in riparian management.

1. Introduction

Vegetation widely exists in natural rivers. Vegetation plays an important role in the river environment since the vegetation provides a suitable environment for habitat creation and biodiversity along with the improvement of water quality and reduction of bank erosion, and so on (Nepf & Ghisalberti, 2008; Greet et al., 2011; Zhang et al., 2020). Various types of vegetation grow along natural rivers, and sometimes they are planted for the purpose of engineering or ecological requirement (Chembolu et al., 2019). The riparian vegetation retards flow and increases the flow resistance caused by the additional drag from the vegetation. Consequently, the vegetation affects the velocity, Reynolds stress, and turbulence intensity (Nepf & Vivoni, 2000; Lopez & Garcia, 2001; Tang & Knight, 2001, 2009; Tang et al., 2010, 2011; Zhao & Huai, 2016; Tang, 2018, 2019a, 2019b).

Previous studies on vegetated flow were mainly on the velocity and resistance of flow (Carollo et al., 2002; Stone & Shen, 2002; Tang & Knight, 2009; Tang & Ali, 2013), where the single layer vegetation was simulated by artificial cylindrical dowels of rigid or flexible type in laboratory flumes and in either emergent or submerged flow conditions (Tang et al., 2010, 2011; Yang et al., 2020; Yan et al., 2020). With the growing role of vegetation in the river ecological environment, much attention has been paid to understand the flow interactions with vegetation and the physical processes at various scales (Curran & Hession, 2013; Nezu & Sanjou, 2008; Nepf, 2012).

The characteristics of flow through vegetation may be interpreted using different mechanisms over the flow depth (Nikora et al., 2013; Huai et al., 2014; Rahami et al., 2020).Thus, the velocity profile can be modelled separately in a layer with each phenomenon described (Tang & Ali, 2013; Tang, 2018, 2019a, 2019b; Singh et al., 2019). The flow structure in vegetated channels has also been investigated through numerical modelling (e.g., Lopez & Garcia, 2001; Neary, 2003; Zeng & Li, 2014) and CFD simulation using FLUENT (Souliotis & Prinos, 2011; Anjum et al., 2018; Anjum & Tasnka, 2019; Rahimi et al., 2019).

In riparian environments, there exists multiple-layered vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, trees. Shorter vegetation is often submerged while the tall vegetation is emergent in high flow conditions. Thus, the flow structure becomes very complicated owing to the interaction between the flow and different-layered vegetation. To understand the influence of multiple-layered vegetation on the flow structure, some laboratory studies were carried out in an open-channel with the bed fully covered by a mixing array of short and tall vegetation (e.g., Liu et al., 2008; Anjum et al., 2018; Tang et al.. 2019; Rahimi et al.. 2019, 2020). Most recently, Tang et al. (2018, 2019, 2021) have conducted experiments on the flow with double-layer vegetation that covered one side of a channel bed. However, there is little study about the impact of non-evenly distributed multi-layered vegetation along two sides of a channel, which commonly exists in rivers. This knowledge gap becomes the aim of this paper.

This paper presents the experimental results of lateral velocity distribution in an open channel: one side of the bed is covered with single-layered vegetation whilst the other side is with two-layered vegetation in a linear pattern. The velocities at different locations were measured by ADV (Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry), aiming at investigating how the vegetation affects the lateral velocity of flow when the short vegetation is under submerged and emergent conditions.

2. Experimental Setting

The experiment was conducted in the 20 m-long titling flume at XJTLU (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University). The flume has a rectangular cross-section of 0.4 m wide by 0.5 m high and is set at a bed slope (So) of 0.003. The vegetation was simulated by 6.35 mm circular plastic dowels in two heights of 10 and 20 cm, denoting the short and tall vegetation, respectively. Both the short and tall dowels are arranged in a linear pattern with a spacing of 31.75 mm between the centres of dowels. The flume is sketched in Figure 1, where two different vegetation arrangements are along two sides of the bed (see Figure 2). Only tall dowels are in vegetation region 1 (left), with the distance of the nearest dowel to wall A being 25.38 mm. In vegetation region 2 (right), there are two rows of short dowels near the free region and two rows of tall dowels near wall B. Thus, each vegetation zone has the same width as the free region, i.e., one-third of the channel width.

Figure 1. The sketch of the channel.

Figure 2. The arrangement of vegetation array and measurement locations.

The measured locations are coded as follows (see Figure 2): BT and BS denote the measurement locations behind the tall dowel and the short dowel, respectively, while FR denotes the free region (i.e., the central zone without vegetation). The other notations are that BST = behind and side away from the tall dowel, NT = the location next to the tall dowel, NS = the location next to the short dowel, and NST = the location next to both short and tall dowels.

Two types of Nortek micro-ADV (downward- and side-probes) were used to measure velocity at various measurement locations in a cross-section. For most measurements, the downward-probe ADV was used to obtain 3D velocities in a vertical except for the 5 cm zone near the water surface, where the side-probe ADV was used instead. The sampling time of each measurement was set as 60 seconds. The WinADV software was used to process the velocity data of ADV. In the experiment, two flow depths of 9 and 14 cm were undertaken. The corresponding discharge was 6.1 and 11.1 L/s, representing the following two flow conditions: all dowels are emergent, the short dowels are submerged while tall dowels are emergent.

3. Results and Discussion

In the subsequent figures, the velocity is normalized by the cross-sectional mean velocity U. The vertical distance (z) above the channel bed is normalized by the height of short vegetation (h).

3.1. Lateral Change of Velocity Profiles

To understand the change of profiles in the different regions (the vegetation and non-vegetation region), the comparisons of velocity profiles at the representative locations (i.e., at locations BST, FR, BSS and BSTS) are shown in Figure 3 and Figure 4 for the cases of 9 cm and 14 cm, respectively.

Figure 3 and Figure 4 clearly reveal that the velocities in the free region (FR) are much higher than those in the vegetation region, indicating that the vegetation has a considerably retarding effect on the velocity. Furthermore, in the emergent case (Figure 3), the velocity profiles are similar for various locations

Figure 3. Lateral variation of velocity profiles for the flow depth of 9 cm.

Figure 4. Lateral change of velocity profiles for flow depth of 14 cm.

(BST, BSS and BSTS) within the vegetation region. However, the velocities tend to show some differences near the top of short vegetation depending on the locations for the partially submerged case (Figure 4), where the velocity between short dowels (BSS) has the highest value while the velocity between tall dowels (BST) is the lowest. At the locations of BSS and BSTS (i.e. short vegetation in submerged conditions), their velocities start to increase from certain distances (z/h at about 0.6) below the top of short vegetation, indicating a penetration depth due to the strong shear between the upper free flow and lower vegetated flow (Nepf & Vivoni, 2000; Tang et al., 2021).

3.2. Lateral Distribution of Depth-Averaged Velocity

To show the impact of different vegetation configurations on the lateral distribution of velocity, the depth-averaged velocity (ud) is calculated and shown in Figure 5, where y is the lateral distance from wall A. Figure 5 shows that the depth-averaged velocity increases rapidly around the interface between the vegetation region (1 or 2) and the free region. This implies that a strong momentum exchange occurs near the interface between the vegetation and no-vegetation regions. The large lateral velocity gradient at the interface is caused by the velocity difference between the two regions, where the flow in the free region (i.e. center) is faster than that in the vegetation region where the slow-moving flow is due to the additional resistance of vegetation. These findings are similar to those observed by Tang et al. (2019, 2021).

Besides, as the water depth increases, when the short vegetation is fully submerged but the tall vegetation is emergent (case H = 14 cm), the vegetation will reduce the relative velocity of the free region more than in the vegetation region, resulting in a smaller gradient of lateral velocity in the transition layer between the vegetation and non-vegetation regions. This result indicates that the influence of depth on the resistance in the vegetated region is relatively smaller compared with that in the free region (Tang et al., 2019, 2021).

Further examination on the lateral velocity distribution of 14 cm case shows that the velocity gradient in the transition zone between the free region and region 2 (i.e., two-layered vegetation) becomes larger than that between the free region and region 2 (tall vegetation). This effect may be due to the relatively increasing resistance of flow in the submerged short vegetation, which has additional strong vertical mixing.

3.3. Discharge in Each Region

The discharge in each region can be calculated based on the lateral distribution of depth-averaged velocity. Figure 6 shows the percentage of discharge in each region for the two cases. The discharge in the free region is about 61% - 63.5% of the total discharge, where it is nearly the same for each vegetation region, although the free region takes only one third of the channel width. With increasing water depth, the discharge percentage in the free region slightly decreases whereas it increases in both vegetation regions. This result may be caused by the relative submergence of vegetation, because of reduced resistance from the short vegetation in region 2 changes from emergent to submerged condition when flow depth changes from 9 cm to 14 cm.

In general, the discharge percentage through the entire vegetation region slightly increases from 39% to 37% as the depth of flow increases from 9 cm to 14 cm, i.e. from the emergent to partially submerged conditions.

Figure 5. Lateral distribution of depth-averaged velocity ud (B = 40 cm).

Figure 6. Discharge percentage in each region for three flow depths: 9 cm and 14 cm.

4. Conclusion

Based on the novel experimental study on the open-channel with two bedsides covered with different vegetation patterns, the results show that the vegetation pattern will affect the lateral velocity distribution. The following points may be drawn:

• The velocity profiles are different laterally. The velocity profiles in the free region are much higher than those in vegetated regions. Although the vertical variation of velocity in all regions is small in the emergent conditions, the velocity starts to increase from a certain distance below the top of short vegetation when the flow depth increases to make the short vegetation under submergence.

• The depth-averaged velocities in the free region are much larger than in the vegetation regions, indicating that a strong momentum exchange exists between the vegetation and non-vegetation regions and that the presence of the vegetation has a noticeably retaining effect on the flow.

• As the flow depth increases, the vegetation will reduce the relative velocity in the free region more than in the vegetation region, resulting in a smaller gradient of lateral velocity in the transition layer between the vegetation and non-vegetation regions.

• In the free region, the velocity near its center is much larger than that near the vegetation regions.


The project was partly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (11772270) and by the funds (KSF-E-17; RDF-16-02-02) of XJTLU.

Cite this paper: Tang, X. and Hu, Y. (2021) Impact of Partially Covered Vegetation on the Lateral Velocity Distribution of Open Channel Flow. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 9, 1-10. doi: 10.4236/gep.2021.94001.

[1]   Anjum, N., & Tanaka, N. (2019). Hydrodynamics of Longitudinally Discontinuous, Vertically Double Layered and Partially Covered Rigid Vegetation Patches in Open Channel Flow. River Research and Application, 1-13.

[2]   Anjum, N., Ghani, U., Pasha, G. A., Latif, A., Sultan, T., & Ali, S. (2018). To Investigate the Flow Structure of Discontinuous Vegetation Patches of Two Vertically Different Layers in an Open Channel. Water, 10, 75.

[3]   Carollo, F. G., Ferro, V. & Termini, D. (2002). Flow Velocity Measurements in Vegetated Channels. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 128, 664-673.

[4]   Chembolu, V., Kakati, R., & Dutta, S. (2019). A Laboratory Study of Flow Characteristics in Natural Heterogeneous Vegetation Patches under Submerged Conditions. Advances in Water Resources, 133, 103418

[5]   Curran, J., & Hession, W. (2013). Vegetative Impacts on Hydraulics and Sediment Processes across the Fluvial System. Journal of Hydrology, 505, 364-376.

[6]   Greet, J., Webb, J. A., & Cousens, R. D. (2011). The Importance of Seasonal Flow Timing for Riparian Vegetation Dynamics: A Systematic Review Using Causal Criteria Analysis. Freshwater Biology, 56, 1231-1247.

[7]   Huai, W., Wang, W., Hu, Y., Zeng, Y., & Yang, Z. (2014). Analytical Model of the Mean Velocity Distribution in an Open Channel with Double-Layered Rigid Vegetation. Advances in Water Re-sources, 69, 106-113.

[8]   Liu, D., Diplas, P., Fairbanks, J. D., & Hodges, C. C. (2008). An Experimental Study of Flow through Rigid Vegetation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 113.

[9]   Lopez, F., & Garcia, M. H. (2001). Mean Flow and Turbulence Structure of Open-Channel Flow through Non-Emergent Vegetation. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 127, 392-402.

[10]   Neary, V. S. (2003). Numerical Solution of Fully Developed Flow with Vegetative Resistance. Journal of Engineering Mechanics, 129, 558-563.

[11]   Nepf, H. M. (2012). Hydrodynamics of Vegetated Channels. Journal of Hydraulic Research, 50, 262-279.

[12]   Nepf, H. M., & Vivoni, E. R. (2000). Flow Structure in Depth-Limited, Vegetated Flow. Journal of Geophysical Research, 105, 28547-28557.

[13]   Nepf, H., & Ghisalberti, M. (2008). Flow and Transport in Channels with Sub-merged Vegetation. Acta Geophy, 56, 753-777.

[14]   Nezu, I., & Sanjou, M. (2008). Turbulence Structure and Coherent Motion in Vegetated Canopy Open-Channel Flows. Journal of Hydro-Environment Research, 2, 62-90.

[15]   Nikora, N., Nikora, V., & O’Donoghue, T. (2013). Velocity Profiles in Vegetated Open-Channel Flows: Combined Effects of Multiple Mechanisms. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 139, 1021-1032.

[16]   Rahimi, H. R., Tang, X., & Singh, P. (2019). Experimental and Numerical Study on Impact of Double Layer Vegetation in Open Channel Flows. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, 25, 04019064.

[17]   Rahimi, H., Tang, X., Singh, P., Li, M., & Alaghmand, S. (2020). Analytical Model for the Vertical Velocity Profiles in Open Channel Flows with Two Layered Vegetation. Advances in Water Resources, 137, 103527.

[18]   Singh, P., Rahimi, H., & Tang, X. (2019). Parameterization of the Modeling Variables in Velocity Analytical Solutions of Open-Channel Flows with Double-Layered Vegetation. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 19, 765-784.

[19]   Souliotis, D., & Prinos, P. (2011). Effect of a Vegetation Patch on Turbulent Channel Flow. Journal of Hydraulic Research, 49, 157-167.

[20]   Stone, B. M., & Shen, H. T. (2002). Hydraulic Resistance of Flow in Channels with Cylindrical Roughness. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 128, 500-506.

[21]   Tang, X. (2018). Methods for Predicting Vertical Velocity Distributions in Open Channel Flows with Submerged Rigid Vegetation. In Proceedings of the 21st IAHR-APD Congress, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2-5 September 2018, 567-576.

[22]   Tang, X. (2019a). A Mixing-Length-Scale-Based Analytical Model for Predicting Velocity Profiles of Open Channel Flows with Submerged Rigid Vegetation. Water and Environment Journal, 33, 610-619.

[23]   Tang, X. (2019b). Evaluating Two-Layer Models for Velocity Profiles in Open-Channels with Submerged Vegetation. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 7, 68-80.

[24]   Tang, X., & Ali, S. (2013). Evaluation of Methods for Predicting Velocity Profiles in Open Channel Flows with Submerged Rigid Vegetation. In Proceedings of the 35th IAHR World Congress, Chengdu, 8-13 September 2013, Vol. 4, 1-12.

[25]   Tang, X., & Knight, D. W. (2001). Experimental Study of Stage-Discharge Relationships and Sediment Transport Rates in a Compound Channel. Proceedings of the 29th IAHR World Congress, Beijing, 16-21 September 2001, 69-76.

[26]   Tang, X., & Knight, D. W. (2009). Lateral Distributions of Streamwise Velocity in Compound Channels with Partially Vegetated Floodplains. Journal of Science in China Series E: Technological Sciences, 52, 3357-3362.

[27]   Tang, X., Knight, D. W., & Sterling, M. (2011). Analytical Model of Streamwise Velocity in Vegetated Channels. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Engineering and Computational Mechanics, 164, 91-102.

[28]   Tang, X., Rahimi, H. R., Guan, Y., & Wang, Y. (2021). Hydraulic Characteristics of Open-Channel Flow with Partially-Placed Double Layer Vegetation. Environmental Fluid Mechanics.

[29]   Tang, X., Rahimi, H. R., Wang, Y., Zhao, Y., Lu, Q., Wei, Z., & Singh, P. (2019). Flow Characteristics of Open-Channel Flow with Partial Two-Layered Vegetation. Proceedings of the 38th IAHR World Congress, Panama City, 1-6 September 2019.

[30]   Tang, X., Rahimi, H., Singh, P., Wei, Z., Wang, Y., Zhao, Y., & Lu, Q. (2018). Experimental Study of Open-Channel Flow with Partial Double-Layered Vegetation. Proceedings of the 1st International Sym-posium on Water Resource and Environmental Management (WREM 2018), Kunming, 28-29 November 2018, 1-7.

[31]   Tang, X., Sterling, M., & Knight, D. W. (2010). A General Analytical Model for Lateral Velocity Distributions in Vegetated Channels (Vol. 1, pp. 469-476). In A. Dittrich, K. Koll, et al. (Eds.), River Flow 2010. Germany: Brundesanstalt fur Wasserbau.

[32]   Yan, C., Shan, Y., Sun, W., Liu, C., & Liu, X. (2020). Modeling the Longitudinal Profiles of Streamwise Velocity in an Open Channel with a Model Patch of Vegetation. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 20, 1441-1462.

[33]   Yang, F., Huai, W., & Zeng, Y. (2020). New Dynamic Two-Layer Model for Predicting Depth-Averaged Velocity in Open Channel Flows with Rigid Submerged Canopies of Different Densities. Advances in Water Resources, 138, 103553.

[34]   Zeng, C., & Li, C. W. (2014). Measurements and Modeling of Open-Channel Flows with Finite Semi-Rigid Vegetation Patches. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 14, 113-134.

[35]   Zhang, J., Huai, W., Shi, H., & Wang, W. (2020). Estimation of the Longitudinal Dispersion Coefficient Using a Two-Zone Model in a Channel Partially Covered with Artificial Emergent Vegetation. Environmental Fluid Mechanics.

[36]   Zhao, F., & Huai, W. (2016). Hydrodynamics of Discontinuous Rigid Submerged Vegetation Patches in Open-Channel Flow. Journal of Hydro-environment Research, 12, 148-160.