Dynamics of Bedload Transport in a Bedrock–Alluvial River

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Bishnu Prasad Sharma1, Rob Ferguson1, Richard J Hardy1, Rebecca A Hodge2 and Jeff Warburton1, (1)University of Durham, Department of Geography, Durham, United Kingdom, (2)University of Durham, Department of Geography, Durham, DH1, United Kingdom
The processes controlling the entrainment, transport and deposition of coarse sediment in bedrock-alluvial systems are key for understanding sediment fluxes in these systems. Theories have been developed for these processes, and assumptions are made about them in models of bedrock incision. However, there are relatively few field datasets from these rivers with which to test these ideas. We report results from a gravel tracer experiment in the bedrock-alluvial Trout Beck, UK. The 410 m long study section consists of alluvial, mixed bedrock-alluvial and bedrock reaches. There are no tributary inputs so discharge is constant throughout. Two sets of 270 magnet-tagged pebbles covering the grain size distribution of the in-situ sediment were seeded in August 2013. Tracers were placed in an alluvial reach and in a bedrock reach, enabling quantification of grain dynamics over different substrates but under the same flow conditions. Tracers were resurveyed six times over nine months. Concurrent measurements of stage, discharge and bedload impacts at various locations in the channel aid interpretation of the tracer measurements. Tracers installed in the bedrock reach were far more mobile than those in the alluvial reach, with mean travel distances of 70.6 and 2.4 m respectively in the first two months. The transport of tracers was largely size independent over the purely bedrock reach. This finding may be explained by bulk hydraulic measurements that indicate that effective shear stress is highest in this section of the channel. Once these tracers reached the downstream mixed bedrock-alluvial reach, transport distances became relatively shorter, though still greater than in the purely alluvial reach (mean distances of 27.6 and 15.4 m from month 2 to month 7), and became size selective. The second set of tracers seeded in the alluvial reach displayed size-selective transport throughout the experimental period. This study demonstrates how reach substrate exerts a strong control on sediment mobility, through influence on both the sediment and the flow.