Change from a laterally stable to meandering river – a reconstruction of the historical discharge

Overview for practitioners

We developed a methodology to explain the change in the river style from laterally stable to a meandering approximately 500 years ago.

Innovation to practice

Meandering rivers actively erode and migrate over time and have been historically constrained to avoid undesired bank erosion. Rivers may also change from laterally stable to meandering rivers due to climate changes.


Historical changes may pass unnoticed unless the origins of the sediment bars and river channel are documented with field data. We developed a methodology to reconstruct the profile of river deposits and calculate the historical discharge. We tested our approach in the Overijsselse Vecht river in which lateral activity of 500 years ago caused spectacular meandering by using:

  • Field collected data to map the river profile and sediment bars from this study and Quik and Wallinga (2018).
  • Calculation of standard discharge relationships based on the historical analysis.
  • Estimation of errors and uncertainty from calculations based on the variability of input parameters.

Findings and implications to policy
The change in river style was caused by an increase in peak discharges that were likely caused by the Little Ice Age and land use changes in the catchment (peat reclamation and exploitation).

Related outputs

Journal publications

  • Candel, J. H. J., Kleinhans, M. G., Makaske, B., Hoek, W. Z., Quik, C., & Wallinga, J. (2018). Late Holocene channel pattern change from laterally stable to meandering – a palaeohydrological reconstruction. Earth Surface Dynamics, 6(3), 723–741.
  • Quik, C., & Wallinga, J. (2018). Reconstructing lateral migration rates in meandering systems – a novel Bayesian approach combining optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating and historical maps. Earth Surface Dynamics, 6(3), 705–721.

Related dataset

The excel file to make the palaeohydrological reconstructions from scroll bars includes 10,000 times Monte Carlo runs.   Dateset is temporary stored and available for download in DataVerse

Related organisations

Last modified: 25/09/2018


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Contact details

Jasper Candel

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