Articles | Volume 3, issue 1
Research article
12 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 12 Jan 2015

Calculation of bedload transport in Swiss mountain rivers using the model sedFlow: proof of concept

F. U. M. Heimann, D. Rickenmann, M. Böckli, A. Badoux, J. M. Turowski, and J. W. Kirchner

Abstract. Fully validated numerical models specifically designed for simulating bedload transport dynamics in mountain streams are rare. In this study, the recently developed modelling tool sedFlow has been applied to simulate bedload transport in the Swiss mountain rivers Kleine Emme and Brenno. It is shown that sedFlow can be used to successfully reproduce observations from historic bedload transport events with plausible parameter set-ups, meaning that calibration parameters are only varied within ranges of uncertainty that have been pre-determined either by previous research or by field observations in the simulated study reaches. In the Brenno river, the spatial distribution of total transport volumes has been reproduced with a Nash–Sutcliffe goodness of fit of 0.733; this relatively low value is partially due to anthropogenic extraction of sediment that was not considered. In the Kleine Emme river, the spatial distribution of total transport volumes has been reproduced with a goodness of fit of 0.949. The simulation results shed light on the difficulties that arise with traditional flow-resistance estimation methods when macro-roughness is present. In addition, our results demonstrate that greatly simplified hydraulic routing schemes, such as kinematic wave or uniform discharge approaches, are probably sufficient for a good representation of bedload transport processes in reach-scale simulations of steep mountain streams. The influence of different parameters on simulation results is semi-quantitatively evaluated in a simple sensitivity study. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the usefulness of sedFlow for a range of practical applications in alpine mountain streams.