Does channel narrowing by floodplain growth necessarily indicate sediment surplus? Lessons from sediment‐transport analyses in the Green and Colorado rivers, Canyonlands, Utah

Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
By: , and 

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Abstract

Analyses of suspended sediment transport provide valuable insight into the role that sediment supply plays in causing geomorphic change. The sediment supply within a river system evolves depending on the discharge, flood frequency and duration, changes in sediment input, and ecohydraulic conditions that modify sediment transport processes. Changes in supply can be evaluated through analyses of coupled changes in suspended sediment concentration and grain size. The concentration of sand in transport in the Green and Colorado Rivers is most strongly controlled by discharge and the bed sand grain size distribution. Since the 1950s, sand loads have decreased in response to declines in peak discharge in the Green River and coarsening of the bed sand in the Colorado River. However, changes in the bed sand grain size distribution are associated with large changes in suspended sand concentration in both rivers; concentration varies by a factor of ~3 in the Green River and a factor of ~8 in the Colorado River, depending on the bed sand grain size distribution. Analyses of hysteresis in suspended sediment measurements show that sediment depletion during annual floods is most strongly controlled by flood duration, with peak discharge being nearly equally important in the Green River. Despite channel narrowing in both rivers, periods of bed sand coarsening and sediment depletion during annual floods indicate that these rivers are not necessarily in sediment surplus. Channel narrowing appears to be strongly controlled by short‐term declines in flood magnitude and the ecohydraulic effects of vegetation and may not be indicative of the long‐term sediment budget.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Does channel narrowing by floodplain growth necessarily indicate sediment surplus? Lessons from sediment‐transport analyses in the Green and Colorado rivers, Canyonlands, Utah
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
DOI 10.1029/2019JF005414
Volume 125
Issue 11
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description e2019JF005414, 30 p.
Country United States
State Utah
Other Geospatial Canyonlands
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