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The Braided Side of the Earth: modelling the long-term morphological impact of dams on the gravel-bed braided rivers of New Zealand to support restoration of the heavily-impacted European rivers (BraidSideEarth)
Start date: Apr 1, 2015, End date: Mar 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The present three-year project aims at predicting and quantifying the impact of dam construction and operation on highly dynamic, multi-thread river systems through the development of a novel, physically-based numerical morphodynamic model, which can be used as a decision support tool in river management and restoration.Gravel-bed rivers with braided and transitional morphologies were once common in alpine-piedmont regions of Europe, providing key services to the human society and sustaining biodiversity. Only few of them still preserve their unique fluvial landscape, because of multiple anthropic effects in the last century which caused narrowing, incision and overall transformation of river styles and functions. One of the main causes are artificial reservoirs, which alter flow and sediment regimes, thus impacting the hierarchy of controlling variables of river systems. Due to lower anthropic pressure, the gravel-bed rivers of New Zealand have experienced much a lower degree of alteration, and are thus an ideal benchmark to investigate restoration strategies that are a priority requirement of several EU Directives for the impacted European rivers.To this aim, during the outgoing phase at NIWA (Christchurch, New Zealand) I will investigate such benchmark by analysing the evolution of natural and dam-impacted New Zealand and European gravel-bed, multi-thread rivers, acquiring new expertise in river geomorphology. At NIWA I will use by my modelling background to develop a numerical model able to address the key controlling interactions for the study river systems, namely among flow, morphodynamics and riparian vegetation, at decadal time scales. My expertise in morphological modelling will be complemented at the return host (Univ. of Trento, Italy). Besides completing and diversifying my knowledge, the project will finally allow for an innovative, model-based quantitative assessment for the restoration of dynamic, multi-thread rivers affected by dam operations.
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