Sensitivity of sediment transport on river characteristics in the large, braided Brahmaputra River
Abstract: Erosional issues in the Brahmaputra River in the eastern Himalayas pose increasing pressure on the nearby societies and ecosystems. With a proceeding climate change and increasing anthropogenic disturbance, predictive models are needed to evaluate the effect on sediment transport. Especially in braided rivers, like the Brahmaputra, sediment transport processes imply high demands on numerical models. The objective is therefore to assess the sensitivity of sediment transport on changed river characteristics in the Brahmaputra River, in order to qualitatively evaluate future possible dynamics. Through the one-dimensional steady state model, HEC-RAS 4.1, the braided river was simplified into a single straight channel to enable an extensive reach (700 km) to be modelled. Since little comparative data were at hand, a literature review gathered independent estimates of each parameter. Their natural variability was applied in the sensitivity analysis, and the model produced a suspended sediment load representing approximately 35% of observed data. The sensitivity analysis showed that the channel bathymetry form had a large impact on the model results, whereas the amount of lateral inflow (both surface and subsurface waters) to the main channel flow had a very small impact. Overall, the suspended sediment load were interpreted to be increasing from a future climate change, while further river regulation could counteract such elevation. Further studies are required concerning the river bathymetry in large scale modelling and to address transport of finer cohesive sediments. This methodology proposes a novel approach on how to analyze sediment transport at a large scale that could be used as a tool to interpret future possible changes and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of sediment transport modelling in the area.
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