Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (10): 1249-1267.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1433-1

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The mechanism of barrier river reaches in the middle and lower Yangtze River

Xingying YOU1,2(), Jinwu TANG3, Xiaofeng ZHANG1, Weiguo HOU3,*, Yunping YANG4(), Zhaohua SUN1, Zhaohui WENG2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Water Resource and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
    2. Hubei Provincial Water Resources and Hydropower Planning Survey and Design Institute, Wuhan 430064, China
    3. Changjiang Institute of Survey Planning Design and Research, Wuhan 430010, China
    4. Key Laboratory of Engineering Sediment, Tianjin Research Institute for Water Transport Engineering, Ministry of Transport, Tianjin 300456, China
  • Received:2016-12-30 Accepted:2017-01-23 Online:2017-10-25 Published:2017-09-06
  • Contact: Weiguo HOU;
  • About author:

    Author: You Xingying (1986-), specialized in river bed evolution. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Yang Yunping (1985-), PhD, E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.51379155, No.51339001, No.51579185;National Key Research Program of China, No.2016YFC0402306, No.2016YFC04022310, No.2016YFC0402106;Central Public Research Institutes Fundamental Research, No.TKS160103


Alluvial channel has always adjusted itself to the equilibrium state of sediment transport after it was artificially or naturally disturbed. How to maintain the equilibrium state of sediment transport and keep the river regime stable has always been the concerns of fluvial geomorphologists. The channel in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River is characterized by the staggered distribution of the bifurcated river and the single-thread river. The change of river regime is more violently in the bifurcated river than in the single-thread river. Whether the adjustment of the river regime in the bifurcated river can pass through the single-thread river and propagate to the downstream reaches affects the stabilities of the overall river regime. Studies show that the barrier river reach can block the upstream channel adjustment from propagating to the downstream reaches; therefore, it plays a key role in stabilizing the river regime. This study investigates 34 single-thread river reaches in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. On the basis of the systematic summarization of the fluvial process of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, the control factors of barrier river reach are summarized and extracted: the planar morphology of single-thread and meandering; with no flow deflecting node distributed in the upper or middle part of the river reach; the hydraulic geometric coefficient is less than 4; the longitudinal gradient is greater than 12‰, the clay content of the concave bank is greater than 9.5%, and the median diameter of the bed sediment is greater than 0.158 mm. From the Navier-Stokes equation, the calculation formula of the bending radius of flow dynamic axis is deduced, and then the roles of these control factors on restricting the migration of the flow dynamic axis and the formation of the barrier river reach are analyzed. The barrier river reach is considered as such when the ratio of the migration force of the flow dynamic axis to the constraint force of the channel boundary is less than 1 under different flow levels. The mechanism of the barrier river reach is such that even when the upstream river regime adjusts, the channel boundary of this reach can always constrain the migration amplitude of the flow dynamic axis and centralize the planar position of the main stream line under different upstream river regime conditions, providing a relatively stable incoming flow conditions for the downstream reaches, thereby blocking the upstream river regime adjustment from propagating to the downstream reaches.

Key words: barrier river reaches, flow dynamic axis, channel boundary, the middle and lower Yangtze River