Temporal and spatial variability in thalweg profiles of a gravel-bed river

Earth Surface Processes and Landforms



This study used successive longitudinal thalweg profiles in gravel-bed rivers to monitor changes in bed topography following floods and associated large sediment inputs. Variations in channel bed elevations, distributions of residual water depths, percentage of channel length occupied by riffles, and a spatial autocorrelation coefficient (Moran's I) were used to quantify changes in morphological diversity and spatial structure in Redwood Creek basin, northwestern California. Bed topography in Redwood Creek and its major tributaries consists primarily of a series of pools and riffles. The size, frequency and spatial distribution of the pools and riffles have changed significantly during the past 20 years. Following large floods and high sediment input in Redwood Creek and its tributaries in 1975, variation in channel bed elevations was low and the percentage of the channel length occupied by riffles was high. Over the next 20 years, variation in bed elevations increased while the length of channel occupied by riffles decreased. An index [(standard deviation of residual water depth/bankfull depth) × 100] was developed to compare variations in bed elevation over a range of stream sizes, with a higher index being indicative of greater morphological diversity. Spatial autocorrelation in the bed elevation data was apparent at both fine and coarse scales in many of the thalweg profiles and the observed spatial pattern of bed elevations was found to be related to the dominant channel material and the time since disturbance. River reaches in which forced pools dominated, and in which large woody debris and bed particles could not be easily mobilized, exhibited a random distribution of bed elevations. In contrast, in reaches where alternate bars dominated, and both wood and gravel were readily transported, regularly spaced bed topography developed at a spacing that increased with time since disturbance. This pattern of regularly spaced bed features was reversed following a 12-year flood when bed elevations became more randomly arranged.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Temporal and spatial variability in thalweg profiles of a gravel-bed river
Series title Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
DOI 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9837(199911)24:12<1153::AID-ESP41>3.0.CO;2-8
Volume 24
Issue 12
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 17 p.
First page 1153
Last page 1169
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