An analysis of channel change on the Rivers Tay and Tummel, Scotland, using GIS and remote sensing techniques
This thesis examines historical river channel change on a 12km study reach of the Rivers Tay and Tummel Scotland via the development of GIS and remote sensing techniques. Firstly, historical maps were combined using GIS rectification techniques in order to examine channel changes over the period 1755 to 1975. Secondly, also using GIS methodology, channel planforms as depicted in a series of aerial photographs were overlain to study recent channel change (1971 to 1994) including that caused by two major flood events. The study formed part of wider investigations into the hydrology and geomorphology of the River Tay, following the 1990 and 1993 flood events commissioned by organisations involved with management of the river. The study reach in 1863 and 1899 was shown to have alternating, highly divided sections with multiple mid-channel islands, and stable single-thread sections although, overall, the channel was less braided than depicted on 18th century maps. By 1975, the multi-channel sections had changed to a predominantly single-thread character and it is proposed that this had occurred in response to flood embankment construction and bank protection leading to channel narrowing and incision. This has wider implications for the management of the River Tay as channel instability supports diverse natural habitats with high conservation value. Once recent river planform changes on the study reach had been identified, stable and unstable reaches were defined allowing the determination of the degree and nature of instability using GIS methodology which included quantification of active channel widths and gravel area, braiding indices, sinuosity and channel occupancy indices. A number of unstable reaches were also studied in the field to examine the processes responsible for river bank erosion. In addition, the effect of in-channel morphology on river planform changes was examined by applying image analysis to bands 3, 5, 6 and 8 of airborne multi-spectral imagery (Daedalus ATM) to map channel bathymetry. The results showed that changes in channel planform and position occurred almost entirely in response to extreme flood events and that areas of greatest channel change were in zones of historical instability resulting from the presence of less cohesive sediments along the courses of former river channels. A meander-like alternation of pool-riffle sequences controlled the local distribution of bank erosion along most of these reaches by deflecting thalwegs against outer banks. The information derived from the study was used to construct an erosion hazard map. Using raster-based GIS techniques, these data were combined with measurements of distance from river channel and flood return periods, to create a model which enabled spatial mapping of river bank erosion probabilities. These probabilities were then mapped for hypothetical floods of 5, 10 and 25 year recurrence interval.