In settings where the transport of sand is partially or fully supply limited, changes in the upstream supply of sand are coupled to changes in the grain size of sand on the bed. In this manner, the transport of sand under the supply-limited case is 'grain-size regulated'. Since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the downstream reach of the Colorado River in Marble and Grand Canyons has exhibited evidence of sand-supply limitation. Sand transport in the river is now approximately equally regulated by changes in the discharge of water and changes in the grain sizes of sand on the channel bed and eddy sandbars. Previous work has shown that changes in the grain size of sand on the bed of the channel (driven by changes in the upstream supply of sand owing to both tributary floods and high dam releases) are important in regulating sand transport over timescales of days to months. In this study, suspended-sand data are analysed in conjunction with bed grain-size data to determine whether changes in the grain size of sand on the bed of the channel or changes in the grain size of sand on the surface of eddy sandbars have been more important in regulating sand transport in the post-dam Colorado River over longer, multi-year timescales. The results of this study show that this combined theory- and field-based approach can be used to deduce which environments in a complicated setting are the most important environments for regulating sediment transport. In the case of the regulated Colorado River in Marble and Upper Grand Canyons, suspended-sand transport has been regulated mostly by changes in the surface grain size of eddy sandbars. ?? 2005 International Association of Sedimentologists.
Additional publication details
Regulation of sand transport in the Colorado River by changes in the surface grain size of eddy sandbars over multi-year timescales