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Coupling fine particle and bedload transport in gravel-bedded streams
- Park, Jungsu, Hunt, James R.
- Journal of hydrology 2017 v.552 pp. 532-543
- United States Geological Survey, bedload, bedrock, filtration, gravel, hysteresis, models, sand, streams, surface water, water quality, watersheds, California
- Fine particles in the silt- and clay-size range are important determinants of surface water quality. Since fine particle loading rates are not unique functions of stream discharge this limits the utility of the available models for water quality assessment. Data from 38 minimally developed watersheds within the United States Geological Survey stream gauging network in California, USA reveal three lines of evidence that fine particle release is coupled with bedload transport. First, there is a transition in fine particle loading rate as a function of discharge for gravel-bedded sediments that does not appear when the sediment bed is composed of sand, cobbles, boulders, or bedrock. Second, the discharge at the transition in the loading rate is correlated with the initiation of gravel mobilization. Third, high frequency particle concentration and discharge data are dominated by clockwise hysteresis where rising limb discharges generally have higher concentrations than falling limb discharges. These three observations across multiple watersheds lead to a conceptual model that fine particles accumulate within the sediment bed at discharges less than the transition and then the gravel bed fluidizes with fine particle release at discharges above the transition discharge. While these observations were individually recognized in the literature, this analysis provides a consistent conceptual model based on the coupling of fine particle dynamics with filtration at low discharges and gravel bed fluidization at higher discharges.