Interactions of Flow, Sediment Transport, and Vegetation in the Long-Term Evolution of Arroyos

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Mariela C Perignon1,2, Eleanor R Griffin3, Gregory E Tucker1,2, Jonathan M Friedman3,4 and Irina Overeem1,5, (1)Univ Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)US Geological Survey, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)USGS Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (5)CSDMS/INSTAAR, Boulder, CO, United States
Arroyos in the Southwestern United States have experienced multiple cut-and-fill cycles in the late Quaternary. Extensive studies fo the Lower Rio Puerco, New Mexico, USA, show that it has most recently progressed from an (1) unincised state with a broad floodplain in the mid 1800s, through a period of (2) incision, forming a deep gully with steep walls by the early 1900s, and to the (3) present-day stage of arroyo widening and filling. The arroyo cycle is driven by a combination of autogenic processes and external forcings, although the relative influence of each process is under debate.

We use the morphodynamic model ANUGA to explore the influences of discharge, sediment transport, and vegetation on the geomorphic evolution of the Lower Rio Puerco through the arroyo cycle. The predictive power of the numerical model is first established by using it to hind-cast the morphologic evolution of a reach of the river during a large flood in 2006, and comparing the model predictions to real-world magnitudes and patterns of topographic change recorded for this event by multi-temporal airborne lidar. The morphodynamic model is then used to simulate the response of this stream to floods in the past. A comprehensive dataset of the topography and hydrology of the Lower Rio Puerco since the 1920s is used to reproduce the morphology of the arroyo at multiple points in time, and historical descriptions serve to extrapolate these into the 19th century. We test the sensitivity of the reconstructed landscapes to changes in peak discharge, sediment supply, and the distribution and characteristics of vegetation in order to determine the relative influence of each forcing in the evolution of the stream, and to understand how the interactions of different processes could drive its progression through the arroyo cycle.