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Temporal and spatial patterns of sedimentation within the batture lands of the middle Mississippi River, USA

Remo, Jonathan W.F., Ryherd, Julia, Ruffner, Charles M., Therrell, Matthew D.
Geomorphology 2018 v.308 pp. 129-141
computer software, floodplains, floods, sediment deposition, sediment traps, sediments, suspended sediment, Mississippi River, United States
Sediment deposition and storage are important functions of batture lands (the land between the channel's low-water elevation and the flood mitigation levee). However, sedimentation processes within these areas are not fully understood. In this paper, we explore the spatiotemporal patterns, rates, and volume of sedimentation within the batture lands along the middle Mississippi River (MMR; between the confluence of the Missouri and Ohio rivers) using three approaches: (1) comparison of historical to modern elevation data in order to estimate long-term (>100 yr) sedimentation rates; (2) estimation of medium- to short-term (<50 yr) sedimentation rates using dendrogeomorphological methods; and (3) geomorphic change detection (GCD) software to estimate short-term sedimentation rates (~12 yr), spatial patterns of deposition, and volumes of geomorphic change within the batture lands. Comparison of long- to short-term sedimentation rates suggests up to a 300% increase in batture land sedimentation rates (from 6.2 to 25.4 mm yr−1) despite a substantial decrease in the MMR's suspended-sediment load (>70%) attributed largely to sediment trapping by dams during the second half of the twentieth century. The increase in MMR batture land sedimentation rates are attributed to at least two potential mechanisms: (1) the above average frequency and duration of low-magnitude floods (>2-yr and ≤5-yr flood) during the short-term assessment periods which allowed for more suspended sediment to be deposited within the batture lands; and (2) the construction of levees that substantially reduced the floodplain area (~75%) available for storage of overbank deposits increasing the vertical accumulation and consequently the detectability of a given volume of sediment. The GCD estimated batture land sediment volumes were ~9.0% of the suspended load at St. Louis. This substantial storage of sediment (~8.5 Mt yr−1) along the MMR suggests batture lands are an important sink for suspended sediments.