Non-capacity or capacity model for fluvial sediment transport

Zhixian Cao, Zhijing Li, Gareth Pender, Peng Hu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    The last several decades have witnessed the development of both capacity and non-capacity models for fluvial sediment transport. While recent investigations of the multiple timescales of fluvial processes have substantiated the understanding of conditional applicability of capacity models, the extent to which a capacity model differs from a non-capacity model remains to be unravelled. This paper presents a comparative investigation of one-dimensional
    capacity and non-capacity models. As a corollary to the theoretical analyses of the multiple timescales of fluvial processes, this study demonstrates that bed load transport can adapt to local flow sufficiently rapidly and, accordingly, a capacity model is applicable. However, as bed evolution modifies the flow considerably, a non-capacity model is needed if the flow is to be properly resolved in addition to bed load transport. Furthermore, it takes a long
    time and space for suspended sediment transport to adapt to capacity. Therefore non-capacity modelling is critical for suspended sediment transport, whereas a capacity model may result in considerable errors at best and become
    ill-posed at worst because of the requirement for extra boundary conditions. The findings of this work should facilitate the physically enhanced development and applications of mathematical river models.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-211
    Number of pages19
    JournalProceedings of the ICE - Water Management
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


    • hydraulics & hydrodynamics
    • mathematical modelling
    • river engineering


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