Abstract

Vegetation is traditionally regarded to reduce the erosion of channels in both fluvial and tidal landscapes. We present a coupled hydrodynamic, morphodynamic, and plant growth model that simulates plant colonization and channel formation on an initially bare, flat substrate, and apply this model to a tidal landscape. The simulated landscape evolution is compared with aerial photos. Our results show that reduction of erosion by vegetation is only the local, on-site effect operating within static vegetation. Dynamic vegetation patches, which can expand or shrink, have a contrasting larger scale, off-site effect: they obstruct the flow, leading to flow concentration and channel erosion between laterally expanding vegetation patches. In contrast with traditional insights, our findings imply that in tidal landscapes, which are colonized by denser vegetation, channels are formed with a higher channel drainage density. Hence this study demonstrates that feedbacks between vegetation, flow, and landform have an important control on landscape evolution.

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