CSDMS 2013 annual meeting poster Laurel Larsen
Cellular automata modeling of flow-vegetation-sediment interactions in low-gradient environments
Cellular automata models have gained widespread popularity in fluvial geomorphology as a tool for testing hypotheses about the mechanisms that may be essential for the formation of landscape patterning. For instance, studies of braided rivers using cellular automata modeling suggested that erodible banks are an essential characteristic for formation of the braid-plain morphology. In wetlands with emergent vegetation and complicated flow patterns, distilling the relevant, nonlinear interactions to a relatively simple set of rules that can be used in cellular automata modeling poses challenges, but the advantage of doing so lies in the ability to perform sensitivity analyses or examine system evolution over millennia. Here I show how a hierarchical modeling strategy was used to develop a cellular automata simulation of the evolution of a regular, parallel-drainage patterned landscape in the Everglades. The Ridge and Slough Cellular Automata Landscape model (RASCAL) suggested that this landscape structure is stable only over a small range of water-surface slopes (the driving variable for flow)—a result that both explains the limited distribution of low-gradient parallel-drainage systems worldwide and would likely have not been detected had a non-hierarchical CAM been used. Additional sensitivity analyses with RASCAL show how interactions between flow, vegetation, and sediment transport can lead to a wide variety of other regular and amorphous landscape patterns, depending on the relative strength of physical and biological feedbacks. Comparisons between RASCAL and well-known CAM models of braided stream dynamics raise interesting questions about the level of complexity that need to be incorporated into models of transitional (low- to high-energy) environments such as wet meadows and small/intermittent streams.
|Output of a RASCAL model of the Everglades ridge and slough landscape. Elevated ridges, colonized by sawgrass, are depicted in red. Flow, which is channeled preferentially through the blue sloughs, runs from top to bottom. Recent catastrophic loss of parallel-drainage sloughs in the Everglades has been attributed to reductions in flow velocities and mean water levels.|
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