Air flow and sediment transport dynamics on a foredune with contrasting vegetation cover

Bernard Bauer, Patrick Hesp, Thomas Smyth, Ian Walker, Robin Davidson-Arnott, A Pickart, M Grilliot, A Rader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Wind flow and sediment transport across a northern California beach-foredune system with two adjacent vegetation types are examined for the same incident wind conditions. The invasive Ammophila arenaria was taller (c. 1 m) with denser coverage than the neighbouring Elymus mollis alliance canopy (c. 0.65 m), which consisted of a variety of interspersed native plants. Wind flow was measured with rotating cup and sonic anemometry, while sediment transport was measured using laser particle counters. Wind speed profiles over the two canopies were significantly different because of differing vegetation height, coverage density, and stem stiffness. In both cases, there was a lower zone of semi-stagnant air (below about 0.3 m) that transitioned upward to a shear zone comprising the upper part of the canopy and immediately above. The shear zone above the Elymus canopy was relatively thin (confined to 0.3–0.5 m above-ground) whereas the shear zone in the Ammophila canopy was thicker extending from a height of about 0.5h (h is average plant height) to about 1.5h. Vertical profiles of Reynolds shear stress (RSS) and turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) are consistent with the shear layer structure over these two contrasting vegetation canopies. The degree of topographically-forced and vegetation-enhanced flow steering was significant, with Ammophila strongly shifting the highly oblique (55°) incident wind to essentially shore-perpendicular trajectories. In comparison, the shore-perpendicular steering effect was not as pronounced for the Elymus canopy. Sediment transport intensity on the beach was continuous, but decreased progressively to the dune toe, and then dropped to essentially zero once the vegetation canopy was encountered (on the stoss slope). Overall, the study illustrates the significant differences in wind flow and turbulence conditions that may occur in contrasting plant canopies on foredunes, suggesting that greater attention needs to be placed on vegetation roughness characteristics in models of foredune morphodynamics and sediment transport potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2811-2829
Number of pages19
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number11
Early online date16 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2022


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