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Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367
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Research paper

Impact of flexible emergent vegetation on the flow turbulence and kinetic


energy characteristics in a flume experiment
Yiping Li a,b,*, Wei Du a,b, Zhongbo Yu c,d, Chunyan Tang b, Ying Wang h, Desmond Ofosu Anim b,
Lixiao Ni a,b, Janet Lau e, Sue Ann Chew f, Kumud Acharya g
a

Key Laboratory of Integrated Regulation and Resource Development on Shallow Lakes Ministry of Education, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
b
College of Environment, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
c
State Key Laboratory of Hydrology Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
d
Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
e
Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Western Australia, Perth 6000, Australia
f
Environmental Engineering, University of Western Australia, Perth 6000, Australia
g
Department of Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
h
Fujian Provincial Investigation, Design and Hydropower, Fuzhou 350001, China
Received 2 August 2013; revised 13 January 2014; accepted 29 January 2014
Available online 16 December 2014

Abstract
Flexible emergent vegetation has a remarkable impact on flow structure, flood control and ecological restoration. In this study, the variation of
flow turbulence and kinetic energy characteristics caused by artificial flexible emergent vegetation were studied by measuring the flow velocity
with a 3D acoustic Doppler velocimeter (ADV) in an open flume. Experiments were carried out in five vegetation densities at two flow discharges, which commonly occur in rivers. The findings revealed that flexible emergent vegetation had a great resistance on flow to quickly
reduce the average velocity, especially at the foliage part. In vegetation zone, vertical velocity profiles were roughly divided into two layers: the
upper layer (z/z0 > 0.3) and the bottom layer (z/z0 < 0.3). The demarcation line of foliage and sheath stem (z/z0 0.3) were observed to be a key
point to impact the Reynolds stress, turbulence intensity and turbulence kinetic energy. This area was the momentum exchange area, turbulence
and Reynolds stress increased gradually along with the streamwise distance. At the same time, the larger vegetation density, the greater turbulence momentum exchanged. The experiment also measured Manning's coefficient n and obtained that vegetation density was a more
important factor to influence roughness than flow discharge. A linear relationship was obtained between vegetation density and Manning's n. The
findings in this paper will be useful for understanding the impact of emergent vegetation on the flow pattern, flood control and designing aquatic
vegetation restoration.
2014 International Association for Hydro-environment Engineering and Research, Asia Pacific Division. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights
reserved.

Keywords: Emergent vegetation; Velocity; Reynolds stress; Turbulence characteristics; Manning's n

1. Introduction
Aquatic plants play an important role in the beauty and
flood control of rivers, lakes, and also impact the flow
* Corresponding author. College of Environment, Hohai University, Nanjing
210098, China. Tel.: 86 13951787286.
E-mail address: liyiping@hhu.edu.cn (Y. Li).

structures, turbulence and nutrients transmission (Tsujimoto,


1999; Wang and Wang, 2010). Among the aquatic plants,
emergent vegetation are widely distributed in some typical
lakes and rivers in China (Ni and Gu, 2005; Wu et al., 2003).
The emergent vegetation in rivers and channels accounted for
a big proportion for absorbing organic matters, purifying water
quality and influencing the flow discharge, turbulence and
kinetic energy characteristics. Wang and Wang (2010) found

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jher.2014.01.006
1570-6443/ 2014 International Association for Hydro-environment Engineering and Research, Asia Pacific Division. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

that flow velocity under the existence of the emergent vegetation can be decreased apparently, especially in the foliage
part. It is a great significance on the river's flood control.
Meanwhile, the foliage can promote sedimentation of small
sediment particles and organic particles. Brix (1994) found
that the emergent vegetation on the absorption of N, P was
greater than submerged vegetation.
Over the past few decades, researchers considered importance of analyzing the flow characteristics and estimating the
hydraulic resistance in open channel with vegetation (Cowan,
1956; Chow, 1959; Petryk and Bosmajian, 1975). Because of
the complex situation with real plants in the river, rigid stem
cylinders are first considered to simulate natural plants. A series
of experiments were undertaken in 2D and 3D model to make
the process simple and simulate the Manning's n coefficient and
drag force (Darby, 1999; Wu, 2008; Noarayanan et al., 2012) to
find out the interior reason for change in velocity and turbulence
characteristics. Nepf (1999) developed a model to describe the
drag, turbulence and diffusion for flow through emergent
vegetation. In the analysis, she covered the natural range of
vegetation density and stem Reynolds numbers to extend the
cylinder-based model for vegetative resistance by including the
dependence of the drag coefficient, CD. Following the contribution of researchers, the rigid cylinder analogy was deemed a
good starting point in attempting to understand flowevegetation interactions. Nevertheless, vegetation elements,
e.g. foliage and bend, had a significant impact on the experimental results. Therefore, Schnauder (2004) proved that the
frontal area (or momentum absorbing area) decreased as a result
of vegetation bending. Based on these facts, Yagci and Kabdasli
(2008) used three real tree saplings to analyze the cumulative
volume, V versus relative height, z/z0 relationship (where z
represented location of measuring point and z0 referred to the
water depth). Wilson et al. (2006) then studied the influence of
rigid stems and flexible plants on the drag force and on velocity
profiles. Wilson et al. (2008) determined the contribution of a
plant's foliage to the total plant's hydrodynamic drag. It was
found that the flexibility of the plant's foliage and its ability to
streamline with the flow potentially decreased the total drag
extraordinarily. Hui and Hu (2010) considered single leafy
shrub and three mixed communities (including shrub-grass,
shrub-reed and reed-grass community) in their experiment to
find out the effects of ecological factors (diameter and flexibility) and vegetation community composition on the drag coefficient related with vegetation. O'Hare et al. (2007) used five
different macrophytes from a lowland river to consider the drag
and reconfiguration. The vegetation changed shape and bend
with the increasing velocity, which in turn reduced the flow
rate. The Manning's coefficient n was expressed as a function of
hydraulics radius, flexibility, Froude number, vertical velocity
and index of the vegetation (Noarayanan et al., 2012).
Although there had been previous research dedicated to the
topic of vegetationeflow interaction, the quantitative equations and relationships for describing the detailed flow
structure and Manning roughness coefficient in different
vegetation densities and flow discharges associated with
emergent vegetation were still unclear. This study was thus

355

necessitated mainly to investigate and describe the flow patterns and turbulence structure in open channel in this regard.
The objectives of this study were (1) to understand the role of
flexible emergent vegetation with different densities on
changing the flow structures along the streamwise direction
and the variation between the flow structures with the characteristics of the plant itself, and then (2) to figure out the
reason of the momentum exchange in vegetation zone and the
relationship between Reynolds stress, turbulence intensity
and vegetation density in the channel, and then (3) to prove
that vegetation could obviously increase the Manning's coefficient and investigate the relationship between the Manning's coefficient and the emergent vegetation's density, shape
etc. These findings in this paper could be useful for flood
control, aquatic vegetation restoration and river management
in nature world.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Experimental apparatus and conditions
All the experiments were conducted in the Hydraulics
Laboratory in Hohai University, China. The experimental
apparatus was mainly composed of two pumps, an inlet section to generate fully developed turbulent flow, a test section
with a rectangle flume to operate interaction between overflow
and vegetation and an outlet section with an adjustable weir.
The re-circulating flume was 0.5 m wide, 1 m high and 30 m
long, with glass sidewalls and concrete bottom (Fig. 1). In
order to decrease the inlet turbulence and maintain the uniform
flow, a wave dissipation board was set at the upstream of the
flume. A triangle weir located at the downstream of the flume
was used to control the water level keeping in 0.5 m depth
accurately. Preliminary experiments were carried out to ensure
there was no flow turbulence effect due to the dissipation
board within the measurement region. It was long enough far
from the inlet to ensure that the water flows through the plant
was smooth and the measurement data were accurate. A three
dimensional Macro-Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry (ADV)
(SonTek, San Diego, CA, USA) was used to measure the velocity and turbulence at a frequency of 20 Hz with 30 second
(s) sampling time. From initial control experimental run
(Fig. 2), it was revealed that the sampling frequency was
enough to obtain accurate velocity and turbulence characteristics (Jarvela, 2005). Thus, 600 data measurements were
collected at each location and with post-processing software
(WinADV), and an average velocity value was obtained.
Measurements at 50 mm below the surface could not be taken
due to ADV limitations. For more information about the
application of ADV on flow measurement in a flume, refer to
Chen's paper (2011).
2.2. Basic characteristics of the vegetation elements and
experimental setup
The simulation of emergent vegetation, similar to Phragmites australis (hv 65 cm), was utilized (Fig. 3) in the

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Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

Fig. 1. General layout of the experimental re-circulating open channel flume set up.

laboratory flume, which was representative of the vegetation in


lakes and rivers (Li et al., 2014). This kind of plastic plant had
foliage and flexibility characteristics like true plant, which
could simulate nature vegetation drag force under the flow. In
this study, although the plants bend because of the maximum
flow of experimental conditions (Q 0.06025 m3/s), the
plants were still emergent, which was in line with the actual
situation. A series of pre-experiment investigated that the
artificial emergent vegetation could be easily inserted into
holes and had the same features as true plant (Table 1).
In this experiment, a tailgate was used in order to control
the water level. The vegetation zone was 7 m long, and began
15 m from the upstream inlet, where overflow was stable and
velocity was fully developed. In this study, the plants were cut
into several parts to measure the cumulative volume (volume
of the whole plant) according to the relative height and
ascertain their relationship between these factors. The curve
(Fig. 4) showed that the slope was larger at the z/z0  0.3
because this part was the sheath stem of a plant, which had
little volume change. At the rest of the vegetation, the cumulative volume changed greatly because of the large foliage
volume. These basic characteristics of the vegetation elements
were very useful for the next experimental analysis.
In order to facilitate plant grow, a full hole of polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) board was mounted on the bottom of the flume

(Fig. 5a). For the sake of uniformity of vegetation, holes were


crossing distributed intersectional. In order to indicate spatial
variability of the flow pattern along the flume within the
vegetation zone, multiple velocity profiles at different positions (Fig. 6) were measured for each flow condition. Velocity
profiles were measured at eight sections (numbered position
1e8) in five vegetation densities (0, 40, 50, 60, 70 stems/m2)
(Fig. 5b) under two flow discharges of 0.03832 and
0.06025 m3/s which are commonly occurred in the rivers.
Positions 1, 7 and 8 located outside of the vegetation zone,
were used for studying the effect of backwater and drop-water
on flow characteristics. Positions 2 to 6 were for investigating
the influence of vegetation-edge, upstream, center and downstream of the vegetation zone, on flow characteristics. At each
position, flow characteristics (velocity, Reynolds shear stress
and turbulence intensity) were measured at 10 points with an
interval of 5 cm for the upper 3 points and 2 cm for the rest
points.
2.3. Dimensionless turbulent kinetic energy
In this study, the turbulent kinetic energy was also examined in addition to mean velocity characteristics. According to
T'Joen et al. (2006) and Yagci et al. (2010), with increasing
Reynolds number, the flow became more turbulent (promoting

Fig. 2. One complete time series belonging to velocity record by ADV. The sampling frequency was 20 Hz and 30 s time at flow discharges of 0.06025 m3/s.

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

357

Fig. 4. Profile of the variation of the vegetation cumulative volume with


respect to relative height. V represents the cumulative volume of the whole
plant, z/z0 represents the relative height.

Fig. 3. Image of artificial emergent vegetation used to simulate Phragmites


australis in this experiment.

mixture of the bulk flow with the boundary layers). Hence it is


a good way to examine the ratio between turbulent kinetic
energy per unit mass k (Eq. (3)).
ui u u

q
urms varu2i
k



1 2
urms v2rms w2rms
2

Property

Value

Plant total height


Approximate height
Foliage section
Sheath stem section
Average diameter
Foliage section
Sheath stem section
Average width
Foliage section
Average surface area
Foliage section

65 cm
50 cm
15 cm
9 cm
0.2 cm
8 cm
0.025 m2

k0:5
Vm

where Vm was the mean flow velocity which was equal to ratio
of Q/A, Q denoted flow discharge, A denoted wetted area.
2.4. The Manning's roughness coefficient n

In order to better explain the plant's influence on the flow,


Manning's roughness coefficient was calculated. The general
equation for Manning coefficient is as follows:

1 2 1
n R3h S2
u

where ui was instantaneous velocity; u was time-averaged


streamwise velocity; u0 was mean velocity components in
streamwise, urms,vrms,wrms was root mean squared (rms) velocity (used to represent the turbulence intensity) in streamwise, spanwise and vertical directions, respectively.
In order to see the turbulent kinetic energy clearly in
dimensionless form, dimensionless turbulent kinetic energy
ratio (DTKE ) was described below (Eq. (4)).
Table 1
Summary of the physical properties of the artificial
emergent vegetation material.

DTKE

where n is the Manning coefficient, u is the velocity of flow, Rh


is the hydraulic radius, and S is the energy slope.
Hf vegnon
6
BG
Utilising the energy equation, the energy loss of head due
to friction, Hf can be determined from Equations (7) and (8)
as.
Svegnon

Vu2
V2
hu d hd Hf
2g
2g
(
Hf vegnon

2
2
Vuvegnon
 Vdvegnon

 hdvegnon

2g
)


huvegnonl
8

In this study, the Manning's roughness coefficients n only


related to vegetation was calculated based on the Manning's n
formulas from Noarayanan et al., (2012), which could be
determined
by
using
the
simple
relationship
n(veg) n(vegnon)  n(non). Therefore, the Manning's n formula
under the vegetation zone could be shown as below.

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Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

Fig. 5. a) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) board used to stick in vegetation with pre-drilled holes. Cross distribution was set to make sure the uniform vegetation density.
b) Four vegetation configurations represents different densities of vegetation used in the flume, 40 stem/m2, 50 stem/m2, 60 stem/m2 and 70 stem/m2 respectively.
The cross with a circle represents hole with a plant, while the cross without a circle means hole without a plant.



 

2=3
1=2
nveg
* Rh *Svegnon
Vvegnon

 

1
2=3
1=2

* Rh *Snon
Vnon
1

3.1. Mean velocity profiles


9

Where n(veg) was Manning coefficient relative only to vegetation, V(vegnon) was average velocity with vegetation,
Vu(vegnon) was upstream velocity measured with vegetation in
position 1, Vd(vegnon) was downstream velocity measured with
vegetation in position 8, V(non) was average velocity measured
without vegetation, hu(vegnon) was depth of flow upstream of
the vegetation in position 1, hd(vegnon) was depth of flow at the
downstream location with vegetation in position 8, S(vegnon)
was energy slope with vegetation and S(non) was energy slope
without vegetation, BG was length of the vegetation zone, Rh
was hydraulic radius and Hf(vegnon) was energy loss of head
due to friction.
3. Results
Series of experiments with varying vegetation densities and
flow discharges were conducted to investigate the flow structure, Reynolds stress, turbulence intensity, kinetic energy
characteristics and Manning's roughness coefficients n in the
presence of the emergent vegetation. It was found that
different conditions produced different results.

Vertical distributions of velocity were measured at different


positions of each density under the flow discharge of
0.06025 m3/s. The profiles were normalized by the nondisturbed flow velocity, u0, which was uniform at each section in the flume. The results showed that the vertical velocity
profiles were roughly divided into two layers including the
upper layer (z/z0 > 0.3) and the bottom layer (z/z0 < 0.3).
Compared to the velocity profile without the presence of
emergent vegetation in the flume, the velocity decreased in the
upper layer and increased in the bottom layer.
The vertical averaged velocities decreased markedly
compared to the non-disturbed velocity (u0) outside the
vegetation zone, that the vertical mean velocity decreased 20%
in position 1, while in position 8 which downstream of the
vegetation zone, the flow decreased nearly 30% (Fig. 7).
However, the velocity profiles could be divided into two parts
based on the demarcation of foliage and sheath stem (Fig. 7) in
the vegetation zone (position 2e7). The upper section was
from the water surface to z/z0 0.3 and the remaining section
was from z/z0 0.3 to the bottom of the flume. In general, the
velocity at the upper part was smaller than that of nondisturbed condition while the bottom part was larger than it.
In some cases the velocity profiles might be slightly different
due to the accuracy of the measurement. At the upper layer,

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

359

Fig. 6. Location of the eight ADV measuring sections within the flume. P1 to P8 represent position 1 to 8, respectively. All the measurement points (the black
circles) were set in the central line, and ten different vertical points throughout the whole depth (an interval of 5 cm for the upper 3 points and an interval of 2 cm
for the rest points).

the normalized velocity decreased gradually from water to


surface inside the vegetation zone compared to the nondisturbed flow, and at the surface of the flow, the velocity
was at a minimum. Position 6 was especially significant as the
normalized velocity decreased from 0.46 to 0.8 at water surface and the largest decrement was more than 40%. It revealed
that emergent vegetation reduced the flow velocity in the
channel by the frictional resistance from the leaves and stems.
However, the velocity profiles of upper part and bottom part at
the demarcation point represented different tendency. From

position 2e7, the velocity inside the vegetation zone was


higher than non-disturbed flow when z/z0 < 0.3, and most of
the normalized velocity was greater than 1. An obvious increase in the change trend was seen along the propagation
direction, and this kind of tendency was weakened in position
7. For example, position 6, which the profile was apparent, the
normalized velocity increased from 1.07 to 1.67 in the bottom
layer and the largest increment was more than 50% compared
to the non-vegetated condition. The velocity reached
maximum value at the sheath stem section (z/z0 0.1) and

Fig. 7. The vertical velocity profile of 0.06025 m3/s on different vegetation densities. The dotted line represents the demarcation of foliage and sheath stem.

360

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

then decreased gradually towards the bottom. However, due to


the experimental limitations, the data were not accurate near
the flume bottom.
The comparison of vertical velocities which normalized
by non-disturbed flow velocity under the vegetation density
of 0, 50 and 70 stems/m2 were presented in Fig. 8. The dotted
line indicates the demarcation of foliage and sheath stem
while the solid curve was the demarcation line of the smaller
velocity and larger velocity compared to that in nondisturbed flow condition. The two consecutive profiles
exhibited the same regular pattern present at the beginning of
the vegetation zone. The slope of the curve was very large but
when at the middle of the vegetation zone (about 350 cm),
the curve had a flat trend and then declined sharply outside
vegetation zone. This phenomenon exhibited by the velocity
profiles stratification were not obvious and experienced a
severe fluctuation from position 2 to 4 before stabilizing at
position 5 and 6. The obvious velocity change was caused by
strong flow turbulence in this area. Due to the presence of
vegetation and the different features between foliage and
sheath stem, there was momentum transfer between these two
layers. It was found that an intense energy exchange between
flow and vegetation at this area.
To account for the different effects on the flow structure
between the vegetation foliage and sheath stem, a logarithmic
curve was generated to divide the demarcation of the smaller

and larger velocity. The correlation coefficient of the curve


was 0.91. The equation of the logarithmic curve was given in
Eq. (10):


y  0:0002r2v 0:0229rv  0:5264
10
ln x  0:0007r2v  0:078rv 1:8; R2 0:91
where x was distance far from the beginning of the vegetation,
y was the relative height of the measurement point, rv was
vegetation density (stems/m2). Based on the equation we could
easily find the demarcation where flow increased or decreased
and how many distance when flow became steady along the
streamwise direction in different vegetation density.
The presence of emergent vegetation played a significant
role on flow structure. Vegetation density also greatly
impacted flow velocity in the flume. With an increase in
vegetation density, the velocity decreased distinctly in the
upper layer, and increased sharply within the lower sheath
stem layer. The vertical velocity profiles in position 6 were
representative of the flow structure and could fully display the
variation tendency of the flow with vegetation (Fig. 7).
Compared to the different densities in position 6 at the near
bed, when the density was 70 stems/m2, maximal velocity
increased nearly 70% compared to the non-disturbed flow, but
for the smaller density, the increasing range was less than
20%. This suggested that the density of vegetation play a

Fig. 8. The variation of the velocity along streamwise direction at different vegetation densities. a) 50 stems/m2 vegetation; b) 70 stems/m2 vegetation density. The
dotted line represents the demarcation of foliage and sheath stem. The black curve represents the demarcation line of the smaller velocity and larger velocity
compared to the non-disturbed flow.

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

significant role in altering the variation amplitude of flow


structures in the flume and a larger vegetation density resulted
in a more apparent stratification.
3.2. Turbulence characteristics
3.2.1. Reynolds shear stress
In this section, the effects of emergent vegetation on the
Reynolds stresses were investigated. In order to better understand the flow structure of different locations in the flume,
position 1, 4, 6 and 8 were selected to investigate the turbulence characteristics and it could reflect the influence of the
vegetation zone in the whole flume. The variations of Reynolds stresses u0 v0 and u0 w0 against the vertical coordinate
z/z0 under different densities (Fig. 9) showed that the Reynolds
stress at these two directions (the vertical direction and
spanwise direction) were quite different within or outside the
vegetation zone. At Positions 1 and 8 located outside the
vegetation zone, the Reynolds stress seldom changed under
small densities (e.g. 0, 40 stems/m2) with the values close to 0,
and slightly fluctuated at the demarcation of the foliage and
sheath stem at large densities (60 and 70 stems/m2) with the
absolute values ranging from 1.6 to 6.5 cm2/s2, indicating that
there was no much turbulence outside the vegetation zone
except for the large density conditions. However, Reynolds
stress in the vegetation zone (e.g. positions 2e6) changed

361

greatly under all the vegetation densities. The Reynolds stress


of each position increased drastically, especially at the
demarcation of the foliage and sheath stem part (0.2 < z/
z0 < 0.5). It could be explained that flow velocities induced
strong fluctuation in the flume when met the vegetation,
especially these two different zones. As a consequence of the
effect of pulse velocity, Reynolds stress could account for
turbulent fluctuations in fluid, and reflected severe turbulence
intensity.
Some of the Reynolds stresses also changed a lot at the
bottom of the flume, which were influenced by the bottom
boundary layer. More specifically, the Reynolds stress
increased sharply at the demarcation of the foliage and sheath
stem part (z/z0 0.3) at position 6, and the variations of peak
values were very large, with the absolute values of 6.10 and
9.40 cm2/s2 for u0 v0 and u0 w0 , respectively. In general, the
Reynolds stress increased gradually from position 4 to 6, and
decreased from position 8.The shapes of profiles were regular
under different vegetation densities, but the magnitudes were
quite different, especially for the peak values at the demarcation of the foliage and sheath stem part.
3.2.2. Turbulence intensity
The turbulence intensity reflected the variation of instantaneous velocity at one point, which could be influenced by the
magnitude of the velocity, vegetation and bed roughness etc.

Fig. 9. Vertical distribution profiles of Reynolds stresses at the longitudinal and vertical directions (u0 v0 , u0 w0 ). The dotted line represents the demarcation of
foliage and sheath stem. The unit of Reynolds stresses was cm2/s2.

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Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

Fig. 10. Vertical distribution profiles of turbulence intensity of three directions in five densities (urms, vrms, wrms as representation). The dotted line represents the
demarcation of foliage and sheath stem. The unit of root mean squared velocity was cm/s.

Our results showed that the turbulence intensities under all


vegetation densities were similar at each positions (Fig. 10). In
positions 1 and 8, the turbulence intensity changed a little,
except for the part near the bottom. Most of the values were
less than 0.1. While inside the vegetation zone (positions 4 and
6), the turbulence intensity presented a severe fluctuation at
the demarcation of the foliage and sheath stem part (0.2 < z/
z0 < 0.5), and it turned slightly stable near the water surface in
all measuring points. The value at the demarcation part was
approximately 0.2 and down to less than 0.1 near the surface.
The density of vegetation took little effect on the shape of the
turbulence intensity profiles. Under the same conditions of the
experiment, it could be found that the trend of three directions
were the same.

3.2.3. Dimensionless turbulent kinetic energy


Based on the formula of turbulent kinetic energy aforementioned, we could obtain their vertical profiles under
different vegetation densities at each measuring position
(Fig. 11). Outside the vegetation zone (positions 1and 8), all
the profiles didn't change too much except for the near bottom
part affected by the boundary layer. The average value was
around 0.5 which might indicate that the flow turbulence was
not very strong outside of the vegetation zone. However, inside
the vegetation zone (e.g. positions 4 and 6), there was a
distinct regularity change of DTKE profiles along the propagation direction, similar to the vegetation turbulence intensity
profiles (Fig. 11). The DTKE got large values at two locations,
one was around z/z0 0.3 and the other were at the bottom of

Fig. 11. The vegetation dimensionless turbulent kinetic energy ratio (DTKE ) of different densities in positions 1, 4, 6, 8. The dotted line represents the demarcation
of foliage and sheath stem.

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

the flume. Around z/z0 0.3 the DTKE increased greatly, the
maximum value was almost 1, twice times as it near the surface, suggesting that this part had an obvious turbulence kinetic energy exchange. While at the bottom of the flume, the
DTKE reached its maximum value, indicating that the
boundary layer effect played a drastic role on the vertical
distribution of turbulence kinetic energy.
Vegetation density also impacted the distribution of turbulence kinetic energy. Although outside the vegetation zone,
there was little change of DTKE at different vegetation densities. Inside the vegetation zone, however, the density of the
vegetation played an important role in the values of DTKE. In
the kinetic energy exchange area, a larger vegetation density
resulted in a greater turbulent kinetic energy, e.g. one of the
most obvious Position 6, the maximum value (when density
was 70 stems/m2) was close to 1. However, in the conditions
of small vegetation densities (e.g. 0 and 40 stems/m2), the
values of DTKE at the demarcation of the foliage and sheath
stem part were less than 0.5.
3.3. The Manning's roughness coefficient n
In general, the Manning coefficient comprehensively reflects the influence of flume roughness on the flow under the
presence of emergent vegetation in this study. The Manning's n
in different discharges and different densities were considered
in this experiment, which expressed as a function of flow rate
and vegetation density. The relationship between Manning's n
and vegetation density at each flow rate was obtained
(Fig. 12). In order to better understand the influence of the
resistance on flow, the Froude number and Reynolds number
based on depth under experimental conditions were selected to
reflect the impact of vegetation (Table 2). The equation for
Froude number and Reynolds number were shown as below.
Vm
r*Vm *hm
Fr p and Re
m
g*hm
where g Gravitational constant; r mass density of water;
m kinematic viscosity coefficient, hm was the height of
measuring point.

363

Table 2
The experiment conditions for different vegetation densities and discharges.
Re is the Reynolds number based on the flow depth.
Test
number

Discharge
(m3/s)

Stem density
(stems/m2)

Manning's n

Fr

Re

A1
A2
A3
A4
A5
B1
B2
B3
B4
B5

0.03832

70
60
50
40
0
70
60
50
40
0

0.087
0.082
0.070
0.055
0.020
0.074
0.069
0.059
0.053
0.013

0.051
0.054
0.056
0.065
0.069
0.089
0.090
0.091
0.092
0.109

44,951.38
46,074.98
49,172.63
57,438.02
58,951.92
77,751.92
78,648.35
78,832.29
78,967.73
92,692.31

0.06025

The results showed that the Reynolds number of this


experiment was within the ranges of 7.78  104 to 9.27  104
under the large flow discharge (0.06025 m3/s) and 4.50  104
to 5.90  104 in small flow rate (0.03832 m3/s) in the flume.
Larger flow discharge lead to more obvious turbulence intensity in the same vegetation density, which could be
explained by the flume environment having more resistance in
a large flow discharge. Similarly, the Froude number under the
large flow discharge was slightly larger (0.089e0.109) than
that under the small flow discharge (0.051e0.069) in all five
densities. The Froude numbers were all less than 0.11 in both
flow discharges, indicating that the flow pattern in this flume
experiment was subcritical flow.
A close relationship between the vegetation density and
Manning's n at each flow discharge was obtained through
Fig. 12. It showed that the Manning's n increased with the
increasing of vegetation density. At the same time, there was
an obvious difference between the conditions with and without
vegetation. When there was no vegetation, the Manning's
roughness coefficient n only varied from 0.01 to 0.02, however
the Manning's n increased to 0.05e0.09 when there was
vegetation, which indicated that the different densities of
vegetation had a big influence on the roughness of the flume
bottom. The experimental data in two different flow discharges
presented similar values under a certain vegetation density. In
our study, the Manning's n was mainly determined by vegetation density thus the Manning's n due to vegetation was
computed. The relationship between Manning's n and flow rate
was small, which indicated that the vegetation density had
more effect on the roughness coefficient at the presence of
vegetation. Hence, a proposed empirical equation was found
from the experimental data by performing multiple regression
analysis as:
y 0:0009x 0:0166; R2 0:95

Fig. 12. Variation of Manning's roughness coefficient n with vegetation density


at each discharge (Q 0.03832 m3/sddB, Q 0.06025 m3/sddA).

11

where x was the density of vegetation (stems/m2), y was


Manning's roughness coefficient n. Through the above
Formula (11), we could easily get the roughness coefficient
value in the flume under the condition of different densities.

364

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

4. Discussion
4.1. Mean velocity profiles
Velocity profiles could be roughly divided into two layers
suggesting that emergent vegetation played an important role
on the flow structure, dependent on vegetation densities and
the locations of foliage and sheath stem. For the purpose of
this study, emergent vegetation had an important effect on flow
structure of river channel and flood control.
A series of analyses in this study showed that the vertical
velocity decreased drastically outside the vegetation zone,
especially at the downstream section. It is possible because
that the vegetation increased the roughness and friction
resistance of the flume, which resulted in a significant negative
effect on the uniform flow. Bennett et al. (2002) also
concluded similar experimental results with several discontinuous small vegetation zones. In our experiment, however,
due to a long vegetation zone, the resistance of the vegetation
to flow was more apparent, comparable to the effect of a big
blockage. So the velocities took a large amount of attenuation,
in particular outside the downstream.
In this study, the velocity profiles were divided into two
layers, which was mainly due to the nature characteristics of
vegetation elements as shown in Fig. 4. The cumulative volume of vegetation and vegetation height was inversely proportional relationship. The flow resistance was increased as
volume of foliage area became larger. It was also noted that
the sheath stem part had a significant impact on the flow
through the whole vegetation zone. The demarcation point of
foliage and sheath stem was found to be a significant position,
as also found by Wang and Wang (2010). Our experimental
results obtained that the flexibility of the plant's foliage had the
ability to reduce the velocity considerably. The cumulative
volume was very small when the relative depth of measurement points was less than 0.3, but increased significantly when
relative depth was greater than 0.3 (Fig. 4). Therefore, the
velocity profiles formed an apparent stratification phenomenon
decreasing in the upper layer and increasing in the bottom
layer.
In order to understand the streamwise velocities inside the
vegetation zone along the streamwise direction, five
different positions were set up. Unlike Yagci et al. (2010),
who only investigated the impacts of individual vegetation to
the mean velocity at a certain distance, our experiment
showed the variation along the propagation direction inside
the vegetation zone. In this experiment, five densities (0, 40,
50, 60, 70 stems/m2) were chosen to investigate the flow
structure. To better understand the effect of different positions of the vegetation under different densities in our
0
experiment, the description of retaining percentage uu
u0
(Yagci, 2010) was used to analyse the flow domain characteristics. Where u was the time-averaged streamwise velocity
in the locations upstream, the u0 was the time-averaged flow
velocity under non-disturbed condition. The change of the
flow velocity could be easily investigated by using this
simple formula.

Compared the normalized velocity profiles at the two


different densities, it could be considered that larger density
increased flow roughness and reduced velocity, meanwhile the
velocity was increased distinctly at the stem part near the
0
bottom. For densities of 50 and 70 stems/m2, the uu
u0 values of
all the positions were shown in Fig. 13 to analyze the change
of the flow. According to the consecutive profiles, we found
that the velocity decreased a lot outside vegetation zone, it
reduced 20% at upsteam while the vegetation could resist 30%
of the flow rate at downstream. While measured the retaining
percentage interior of the vegetation zone, the velocity was
also negative at the upper layer. Findings by Bennett et al.
(2002) and Yagci and Kabdasli (2008) showed that flow velocity decelerates within and near the vegetation zones. In line
with their results, our experiment came to a conclusion that in
the vegetation zone, the remaining percentage had a positive
value at the bottom layer especially for the larger densities,
and the velocity downstream of vegetation zone was higher
than that in upstream zone. The range of the decelerated velocity increased gradually at the surface of the flume with the
biggest reduction of 40% in the vegetation zone. In contrast,
the velocity increased with density in the plant stem part
suggesting that larger vegetation density had a greater
retaining influence on the flow field.
4.2. Turbulence characteristics
The Reynolds stresses (u0 v0 , u0 w0 ) generated large
fluctuations at the demarcation of vegetation foliage and
sheath stem and became steady towards the downstream area,
suggesting that flow velocities induced strong fluctuation in
the flume when met the vegetation at the demarcation of
vegetation foliage and sheath stem and then became steady
outside vegetation zone. As a consequence of the effect of
pulse velocity, Reynolds stress could account for turbulent
fluctuations in fluid. Reynolds stress was generated by the
uneven flow velocity distribution, and could reflect severe
turbulence intensity. It could be concluded from Fig. 9, that the
turbulence was non-isotropic of turbulence intensity patterns
in two directions. The patterns indicated that there were one
primary region behind the vegetation element for the two directions. The region had relatively higher intensity values
which were located at the demarcation of vegetation foliage
and sheath stem part. Meanwhile, due to the influence of
boundary effect, the turbulence intensities at the bottom fluctuated greatly in comparison to the surface of water. In this
experiment, different densities of the vegetation were considered for turbulence characteristics (Figs. 9 and 10). More
leaves on the upper part in the flume led to greater water
resistance compared with the sheath stems. Agreeing with the
findings of Nepf et al. (1997) experiment, with the increasing
of the vegetation density in our experiment, the foliage area
also gradually increased and therefore resulted in larger flow
resistance.
There was a close connection between the energy transfer
and the turbulence intensity. All the energy collected from the
mean flow through stem drag appeared to be turbulent kinetic

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

365

Fig. 13. The retaining percentage of the vertical velocity under 50 and 70 stems/m2 vegetation density.

energy, the important indicator to measure turbulence mixed


ability. In this experiment, dimensionless turbulent kinetic
energy ratio (DTKE ) was used to convert mean kinetic energy
into turbulent kinetic energy at the scale of the plant stems and
foliage in the vegetation zone (Fig. 11). The energy exchange
mainly occurred at the demarcation of the vegetation foliage
and sheath stems which was mostly the unstable region where
vegetation greatly absorbs the momentum from the flow and
transfers parts of the flow momentum into the vegetation
stems. The phenomenon could be accounted by the most unstable flow velocity at this position resulting in a severe momentum exchange. In the upper layer, velocities decreased
sharply and increased at the sheath stem part compared to the
non-disturbed velocity. Velocities in this turning point had
apparent changes that led to the increase in turbulence momentum exchange. Based on our data, it was easy to obtain the
energy conversion conditions under different vegetation densities at different positions.

roughness coefficient was also related to average velocity. The


velocity data under different densities showed that the corresponding roughness coefficient decreased with the increasing
velocity. Fathi-Maghadam and Kouwen, (1997) and Lee et al.
(2004) also discovered a similar relationship with our
experiment.
In our experiment, the average flow velocity decreased with
the increasing of density gradually. As the scale ratio of
vegetation leaf and the stem was 7:3, the reduction of the
streamwise velocity was mostly based on the leaf section. In
this experiment, the contribution of flow discharge on the
Manning's n was small in relation to vegetation density. A
large vegetation density caused a great interaction force with
each plant which leaded to the decline of the flexibility of the
whole vegetation zone. So the increasing density of vegetation
caused increasing Manning's n regarded as a result of the
decrease of plant bending.
4.4. Effects of vegetation density on flow structures

4.3. The Manning's roughness coefficient n


Manning's roughness coefficient n is indispensible for
analysis of the lakes or rivers models. In this experiment, the
wall and the bottom of the flume were made of glass and
concrete respectively and wall roughness effect was measured
small. A constant water level (h 0.5 m) made the density of
vegetation and flow discharge become more important in this
analysis. In our experiment, five different densities and two
different flow discharges were considered to analyze the
Manning's roughness coefficient n. Based on the Table 2 and
Fig. 12, we found out that different densities had a significant
influence on the roughness rather than the flow discharges. It
could be explained that the flexibility of the plant's foliage
distinctly contributed to the reduction of the overall drag. The

In this study, different vegetation densities and different


flow discharges were undertaken to measure their effects on
the flow. The vegetation played a significant role on the flood
control of rivers and lakes because of its resistance to the flow
(Fathi-Maghadam, 1997; Thomaz et al., 2007). The vegetation
density, height, shape and other factors could influence the
roughness. In our experiment the density and the demarcation
of the foliage and sheath stem were the most important parameters specifically.
Different vegetation densities greatly affected the flow
structures including flow velocity, Reynolds stress, turbulence
intensity, kinetic energy characteristics and Manning's roughness coefficient n. At the same time, an obvious fluctuation of
flow occurred in the demarcation of the foliage and sheath

366

Y. Li et al. / Journal of Hydro-environment Research 9 (2015) 354e367

Table 3
Unit depth discharge of the foliage section and the sheath stem section in a discharge of 0.06025 m3/s from position 2 to 7.
Vegetation density (stems/m2)

Unit depth discharge (m2/s)

70

qf
qs
qf/qs
qf
qs
qf/qs
qf
qs
qf/qs
qf
qs
qf/qs

60

50

40

Positions

Average flow ratio

0.106
0.113
0.933
0.114
0.120
0.952
0.089
0.107
0.830
0.106
0.107
0.991

0.091
0.133
0.686
0.120
0.140
0.857
0.106
0.120
0.881
0.109
0.113
0.958

0.120
0.140
0.857
0.123
0.133
0.921
0.120
0.113
1.059
0.117
0.113
1.034

0.143
0.153
0.932
0.146
0.147
0.994
0.131
0.127
1.038
0.117
0.120
0.976

0.109
0.140
0.776
0.131
0.140
0.939
0.131
0.127
1.038
0.126
0.120
1.048

0.126
0.127
0.992
0.114
0.113
1.008
0.109
0.113
0.958
0.117
0.127
0.925

stem. Unit depth discharge of the foliage part (qf) and the stem
part (qs) was used here to analyze these phenomenon (Table 3
(discharge 0.06025 m3/s)) with the outside vegetation zone
not being considered. In general, the unit depth discharge of
the foliage part was smaller than the stem part, for the foliage
part occupied most of the water height. The average flow ratio
increased as the density decreased (Table 3). For example, the
average flow ratio was the smallest (qf/qs 0.863) in the
biggest density (70 stems/m2), which could be explained that
the resistance of the upper foliage part was larger with more
vegetation, inducing most of the water went through the bottom stem part (no foliage). The change of qf/qs from density
60 to 70 stems/m2 was more than 0.1, while it was only 0.04
from 40 to 60 stems/m2. Through a series of analyses, we
could find that the change range of the velocity or turbulence
characteristics became largest with the largest vegetation
density (70 stems/m2). It might be considered that in the
condition of our laboratory, the density of 70 stems/m2 was a
relatively large density, and this finding might be useful for the
flood control under emergent vegetation.
5. Conclusions
This paper measured the effect of emergent vegetation on
flow structures using a 3D acoustic Doppler velocity apparatus
(ADV) in an open channel flume. Different properties such as
vertical velocities, turbulence characteristics and Manning's
roughness coefficient n were investigated under five vegetation
densities and two discharges. The results shows that the vertical distribution of streamwise velocity profiles could be
divided into two layers which depended on the demarcation of
foliage and sheath stem inside the vegetation zone. And a
logarithmic curve was generated to divide the demarcation of
the smaller and larger velocity compared to the velocities on
non-disturbed condition along the streamwise direction. It
achieved stability at the middle of the vegetation zone (about
350 cm). When vegetation density was 70 stems/m2, maximal
velocity increased nearly 70% compared to the non-disturbed
flow. The energy exchange mainly occurred at this unstable

0.116
0.134
0.863
0.125
0.132
0.945
0.114
0.118
0.967
0.115
0.117
0.989

region where vegetation greatly absorbs the momentum from


the flow and transfers parts of the flow momentum into the
vegetation stems. The DTKE was up to 0.903 when vegetation
density was 70 stems/m2. At the same time, the Manning's
roughness coefficient n was highly related to vegetation density, and a new empirical equation was obtained to describe
their relationships. An increasing density of vegetation caused
the increasing Manning's n which was as a result of the
decrease in plant bending. The findings in this study will be
useful in flood control, ecological restoration and sediment
transport through the relations between flow hydraulic characteristics and vegetation density in river channels. For further
studies, it is recommended that different water levels and
configurations of vegetation should be taken into consideration
to investigate the fluctuation of the flow characteristics and to
apply to hydrodynamic modelling.
Acknowledgements
The research was supported by Grant # 2010CB951101,
Qing Lan Project, Program for Excellent Talents in Hohai
University, and Chinese National Science Foundation
(51379061, 51179053, 50979022), and Jiangsu Province National Science Foundation (BK20131370), and Grant #
40911130507, 2012ZX07506-002.
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Glossary

The following symbols are used in this paper:


A: Denoted wetted area;;
BG: Length of green belt;;
CD: The drag coefficient;;
Fr: Froude number;;
g: Gravitational constant;;
h: Water level;;
hv: Height of vegetation;;
hm: Height ofmeasuring point;;
hd(vegnon): Depth of flow downstream of the vegetation;;
hu(vegnon): Depth of flow upstream of the vegetation;;
Hf(vegnon): Energy loss of head due to friction;;
k: The ratio between turbulent kinetic energy per unit mass;;
n(veg): Manning's n only due to vegetation;;
Q: Flow discharge;;
qf,qs: Unit depth discharge of the foliage section and the stem section,
respectively (m2/s);;
Re: Reynolds number based on depth;;
Rh: Hydraulic radius;;
S(vegnon): Energy slope with vegetation;;
S(non): Energy slope without vegetation;;
ui: Instantaneous velocity;;
u0: The non-disturbed flow velocity;;
u: Time-averaged streamwise velocity;;
u0 ; v0 ; w0 : Mean velocity components in streamwise, spanwise and vertical
directions, respectively (cm/s);;
urms, vrms, wrms: Root mean squared (rms) velocity in streamwise, spanwise
and vertical directions, respectively (cm/s);;
u0 v0 : Reynolds stress in vertical direction (z) on plane perpendicular to
streamwise direction (cm2/s2);;
u0 w0 : Reynolds stress in spanwise direction ( y) on plane perpendicular to
streamwise direction (cm2/s2);;
VC: umulative volume;;
Vm: Mean flow velocity (Vm Q/A);;
V(vegnon): Average velocity of flow with vegetation;;
V(non): Average velocity of flow without vegetation;;
Vd(vegnon): Downstream Velocity measured with vegetation;;
Vu(vegnon): Upstream velocity measured in the presence of vegetation;;
z/z0: Relative height;;
r: Mass density of water;;
rv: Vegetation density;;
m: The kinematic viscosity coefficient;.