Analysis of controls upon channel planform at the First Great Bend of the Upper Yellow River, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Zhiwei Li, Zhaoyin Wang*, Baozhu Pan, Jun Du, Gary Brierley, Guo an Yu, Brendon Blue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The 270 km long section of the Upper Yellow River at the First Great Bend is comprised of single channel and multiple channel systems that alternate among anastomosing, anabranching, meandering and braided reaches. The sequence of downstream pattern changes is characterized as: anastomosing-anabranching, anabranching-meandering, meandering-braided and braided-meandering. Remote sensing images, DEM data and field investigations are used to assess and interpret controls on these reach transitions. Channel slope and bed sediment size are key determinants of transitions in channel planform. Anastomosing reaches have a relatively high bed slope (0.86‰) and coarser sediment bed material (d50 = 3.5 mm). In contrast, meandering reaches have a low slope (0.30‰) and fine sediment bed material (d50 = 0.036 mm). The transition from a meandering to braided pattern is characterized by an increase in channel width-depth ratio, indicating the important role of bank strength (i.e. cohesive versus non-cohesive versus channel boundaries). Interestingly, the braided-meandering and meandering-braided transitions are coincident with variable flow inputs from tributary rivers (Baihe and Heihe rivers respectively). Theoretical analysis of the meandering-braided transition highlights the key control of channel width-depth ratio as a determinant of channel planform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-848
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geographical Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • anabranching river
  • anastomosing river
  • braided river
  • meandering river
  • river pattern diversity
  • river pattern transition
  • Yellow River Source


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysis of controls upon channel planform at the First Great Bend of the Upper Yellow River, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this