Magnitude and processes of bank erosion at a small stream in Denmark

Anita Veihe, Niels H. Jensen, Iris Gunia Schiøtz, Søren Laurentius Nielsen

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River banks are important sources of sediment and phosphorus to fluvial systems, and the erosion processes operating on the banks are complex and change over time. This study explores the magnitude of bank erosion on a cohesive streambank within a small channelized stream and studies the various types of erosion processes taking place. Repeat field surveys of erosion pin plots were carried out during a 4-year period and observations were supplemented by continuous monitoring of volumetric soil water content, soil temperature, ground water level and exposure of a PEEP sensor. Bank erosion rates
(17Ð6–30Ð1 mm year-1) and total P content on the banks were relatively high, which makes the bank an important source of sediment and phosphorus to the stream, and it was estimated that 0Ð27 kg Ptot year-1 ha-1 may potentially be supplied to the stream from the banks. Yearly pin erosion rates exceeding 5 cm year1 were mainly found at the lower parts of the bank and were associated with fluvial erosion. Negative erosion pin readings were widespread with a net advance of the bank during the monitoring period mainly attributed to subaerial processes and bank failure. It was found that dry periods characterized by low soil water content and freeze–thaw cycles during winter triggered bank failures. The great spatial variability, in combination with the temporal interaction of processes operating at different scales, requires new tools such as
3-D topographical surveying to better capture bank erosion rates. An understanding of the processes governing bank erosion is required for riparian management using vegetational measures as root size and structure play different roles when it comes to controlling bank erosion processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1597-1613
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • streambank erosion
  • erosion rates
  • subaerial processes
  • streambank mass failure
  • fluvial entrainment

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