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Velocity mapping in the Lower Congo River: A first look at the unique bathymetry and hydrodynamics of Bulu Reach

September 25, 2009

The lower Congo River is one of the deepest, most powerful, and most biologically diverse stretches of river on Earth. The river’s 270 m decent from Malebo Pool though the gorges of the Crystal Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean (498 km downstream) is riddled with rapids, cataracts, and deep pools. Much of the lower Congo is a mystery from a hydraulics perspective. However, this stretch of the river is a hotbed for biologists who are documenting evolution in action within the diverse, but isolated, fish populations. Biologists theorize that isolation of fish populations within the lower Congo is due to barriers presented by flow structure and bathymetry. To investigate this theory, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and American Museum of Natural History teamed up with an expedition crew from National Geographic in 2008 to map flow velocity and bathymetry within target reaches in the lower Congo River using acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) and echo sounders. Simultaneous biological and water quality sampling was also completed. This paper presents some preliminary results from this expedition, specifically with regard to the velocity structure andbathymetry. Results show that the flow in the bedrock controlled Bulu reach of the lower Congo is highly energetic. Turbulent and secondary flow structures can span the full depth of flow (up to 165 m), while coherent bank-to-bank cross-channel flow structures are absent. Regions of flow separation near the banks are isolated from one another and from the opposite bank by high shear, high velocity zones with depth-averaged flow velocities that can exceed 4 m/s.

Publication Year 2009
Title Velocity mapping in the Lower Congo River: A first look at the unique bathymetry and hydrodynamics of Bulu Reach
Authors P. Ryan Jackson, Kevin A. Oberg, Ned Gardiner, John Shelton
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70158956
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Office of Surface Water