The fluvial geomorphology of the lower Ebro (2002-2013): bridging gaps between management and research

R.J. Batalla, D. Vericat, A. Tena


This paper summarises twelve years of research undertaken on the lower River Ebro (NE Spain). The research has been undertaken to achieve a fundamental understanding of the fluvial processes in this large Mediterranean river affected by flow regulation. Dams in the whole basin and, in particular, in the lower section of the river alter the Ebro’s flow and sedimentary regimes, thus affecting its physical and ecological functioning. Data obtained on hydrology, sediment transport and river channel dynamics (i.e. particle mobility, bed structure) have aided the design and implementation of flushing flows since 2002; the main objectives of these artificial releases were the control of excess growth of aquatic vegetation (i.e. macrophytes) and the maintenance of certain sedimentary activity in the channel downstream from the Mequinenza-Ribarroja-Flix Dam complex. Results highlight the sedimentary disequilibrium of the river, with the current sediment load equating to 1% of that estimated at the beginning of the 20th century in the absence of dams and under different land uses. Channel platform changes show that the channel has become more stable since dams were closed and a significant reduction of sediment availability has occurred, together reinforcing the sedimentary disequilibrium of the river. Monitoring of flushing flows has demonstrated their high sediment transport capacity. This suggests that, in combination with other restoration measures such as sediment injections, flushing flows could greatly benefit the riverine ecosystem, reducing macrophyte stands and maximizing the sediment delivery to the lowermost river reaches.


sediment transport, sedimentary regime, flow regime, flushing flows, dams, river Ebro

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