The old Rhine evolution since 1950 : historical aspects

Abstract : The 45 km-long reach of the Rhine River from Kembs to Breisach has been heavily impacted by engineering works during the last two centuries. The Kembs dam and the lateral “Grand Canal d’Alsace” achieved in 1959 induced significant decrease in sediment transport and diversion of most of the flow in the lateral canal so that the by-passed “Old Rhine” runs now a minimum flow (3% of the mean annual discharge during 300 days per year). Two combined approaches were performed to understand the Old Rhine morphological response to “dewatering”, peak flow reduction and sediment transport disruption in particular the vegetation expansion process and its potential feedback impacts on the channel hydraulics and the sediment transport: i) a space-time approach using series of aerial photographs and historical cross-sections and ii) 1D morphodynamic simulations (see the joined communication of Béraud et al.). Extents of water bodies, gravel bars, riparian vegetation (grasslands, shrubs, trees identified using differences in colour, texture and structure) and anthropogenic features were mapped every 10 years since the 1950s. Results show a strong channel narrowing and associated vegetation expansion until 1982. Tests conducted on the different dates underlined homogeneous segments and downstream progression of the processes through time, demonstrating different patterns of adjustments. Cross-sections of 1950 and 1990 were overlaid with land cover layers, demonstrating that incision and sedimentation areas are spatially linked with the planform changes. From these findings, we hypothesised that vegetation encroachment modified hydraulic conditions, enabling sediment transport, winnowing and deposition processes despite of peak flow reduction and armour layer development due to intense incision following channelization works. In order to test these causality hypothesis the mean sediment mobility along the homogeneous segments was assessed using 1D hydromorphodynamical simulations.
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Conference papers
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  • HAL Id : hal-01067766, version 1

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Fanny Arnaud, Claire Béraud, H. Piegay, L. Schmitt, J. Le Coz, et al.. The old Rhine evolution since 1950 : historical aspects. 1st International Conference on the Status and Future of the World's Large Rivers, Apr 2011, Vienne, Austria. ⟨hal-01067766⟩

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