Bedload Transport Processes in Armored, Gravel-bed Channels: Impacts of Hydrograph Form

Friday, 19 December 2014
Megan Kenworthy, Center for Ecohydraulics Research, Boise, ID, United States, Elowyn Yager, Univ of ID-Idaho Water Ctr, Boise, ID, United States and Sarah M Yarnell, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Accurately predicting bed load transport rates remains challenging, with many influential factors still poorly understood, including unsteady flows and stream bed armoring. Nearly all natural channels experience unsteady flows, and hydrograph form varies significantly from gradually (i.e. snowmelt) to rapidly changing flows (i.e. rain driven or many regulated flows). However, most predictive methods neglect hydrograph impacts, and nearly all bedload transport experiments use steady flows. Stream bed armoring likely influences bedload transport rates as well, with the coarser surface limiting the availability of the finer, more mobile grain sizes in the subsurface. It remains uncertain whether armor persists, breaks up, or exchanges particles with bedload during high flow events. Coupled effects of hydrograph form and armor may also be significant, and previous work indicates that more gradual changes in flow promote more significant armoring compared to rapid changes in flow.

To better understand the impacts of hydrograph form and armoring on bedload transport processes in gravel-bed rivers, flume experiments were conducted at the University of Idaho’s Stream Lab. An armored, equilibrium bed was established as the initial condition for all experiments, which included steady-state discharges and a variety of hydrograph forms from gradually to rapidly changing. Steady-state runs allowed for comparison of bedload transport for a given discharge run singularly and in the context of various hydrographs. Though hydrograph form varied, minimum and peak flow rates and the total estimated transport capacity were held constant between runs. Armor ratios were estimated before and after runs by sampling the surface and subsurface separately. Armor behavior during runs was tracked by spray-painting the bed surface in three cross-sections that were repeatedly photographed then excavated after runs. Additional data collection during runs included photos for bed grain size analysis, bedload transport rates and total bedload flux. This set of experiments will provide improved understanding and quantification of armor and hydrograph impacts on bedload transport processes which could be applied to significantly improve predictions of bedload transport.