Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (11): 1376-1388.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1441-1

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Planform characteristics and development of interchannel wetlands in a gravel-bed anastomosing river, Maqu Reach of the Upper Yellow River

Boyi LIU1,2(), Suiji WANG1,2,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2017-06-02 Accepted:2017-07-06 Online:2017-11-10 Published:2017-09-07
  • Contact: Suiji WANG;
  • About author:

    Author: Liu Boyi, Master Candidate, specialized in fluvial geomorphology. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41571005, No.41271027


Both interchannel wetlands and multi-channels are crucial geomorphologic units in an anastomosing river system. Planform characteristics and development of interchannel wetlands and multi-channels control the characteristics of anastomosing rivers. To understand the role that interchannel wetlands play in the development of anastomosing rivers, a study was conducted on the Maqu Reach of the Upper Yellow River (MRUYR), a gravel-bed anastomosing river characterized by highly developed interchannel wetlands and anabranches. Geomorphologic units in the studied reach were extracted from high resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth. The size distributions of interchannel wetlands and interchannel wetland clusters (IWCs), a special combination of interchannel wetlands and anabranches, were investigated. Geomorphologic parameters, including the ratio of interchannel wetland area to IWC area (P), shoreline density (Dl), and node density (Dn) were used to analyze planform characteristics of IWCs and the development of multi-channels in the studied reach. The results suggest that small or middle sized interchannel wetlands and large or mega sized IWCs are more common at the study site. The area of IWC (Su) is highly correlated with other geomorphologic parameters. P increases with increasing Su, and the upper limit is about 80%, which indicates that the development of interchannel wetlands and anabranches in the IWC is in the equilibrium stage. In contrast, Dl and Dn show a tendency to decrease with increasing Su due to diverse evolution processes in IWCs with different sizes. There are three main reasons leading to the formation of IWCs: varying stream power due to the meandering principal channel; development of the river corridor due to the weakening of geologic structure control; and high stability of interchannel wetlands due to conservation by shoreline vegetation.

Key words: channel planform, gravel-bed anastomosing river, interchannel wetland, geomorphologic parameter, Yellow River