The Amazon and Orinoco Rivers are massive transcontinental conveyance systems for suspended sediment. They derive about 90% of their sediment from the Andes that support their western headwaters, transport it for thousands of kilometers across the breadth of the continent and deposit it in the coastal zones of the Atlantic. At their points of maximum suspended-sediment discharge, the Amazon transports an average of 1100-1300 ?? 106 tons per year and the Orinoco transports about 150 ?? 106 tons per year. Relations of sediment discharge to water discharge are complicated by unusual patterns of seasonal storage and remobilization, increased storage and reduced transport of sediment in the middle Orinoco during periods of peak water discharge, and storage of suspended sediment in the lower Amazon during rising discharge and resuspension during falling discharge. Spatial distributions of suspended sediment in cross-sections of both rivers are typically heterogeneous, not only in the vertical sense but also in the lateral. The cross-channel mixing of tributary inputs into the mainstem waters is a slow process that requires several hundred kilometers of downriver transport to complete. Considerable fine-grained sediment is exchanged between rivers and floodplains by the combination of overbank deposition and bank erosion. ?? 1994.
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Suspended sediments of the modern Amazon and Orinoco rivers