skip to main content


Title: Dynamic Clusters to Infer Topologic Controls on Environmental Transport of River Networks
Abstract

The knowledge of structural controls of river networks (RNs) on transport dynamics is important for modeling and predicting environmental fluxes. To investigate impacts of RN’s topology on transport processes, we introduce a systematic framework based on the concept of dynamic clusters, where the connectivity of subcatchments is assessed according to two complementary criteria: minimum‐ and maximum‐flow connectivity. Our analysis from simple synthetic RNs and several natural river basins across the United States reveals the key topological features underlying the efficiency of flux transport and aggregation. Namely, the timing of basin‐scale connectivity at low‐flow conditions is controlled by the abundance of topologically asymmetric junctions (side‐branching), which at the same time, result in a slow‐down of the flux convergence at the outlet (maximum‐flow). Our results, when compared with observed topological trends in RNs as a function of climate, indicate that humid basins exhibit topologies which are “naturally engineered” to slow‐down fluxes.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1854452
NSF-PAR ID:
10445053
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume:
49
Issue:
6
ISSN:
0094-8276
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. Despite their small spatial extent, fluvial ecosystems play a significant role in processing and transporting carbon in aquatic networks, which results in substantial emission of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere. For this reason, considerable effort has been put into identifying patterns and drivers of CH4 concentrations in streams and rivers and estimating fluxes to the atmosphere across broad spatial scales. However, progress toward these ends has been slow because of pronounced spatial and temporal variability of lotic CH4 concentrations and fluxes and by limited data availability across diverse habitats and physicochemical conditions. To address these challenges, we present a comprehensive database of CH4 concentrations and fluxes for fluvial ecosystems along with broadly relevant and concurrent physical and chemical data. The Global River Methane Database (GriMeDB; https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/f48cdb77282598052349e969920356ef, Stanley et al., 2023) includes 24 024 records of CH4 concentration and 8205 flux measurements from 5029 unique sites derived from publications, reports, data repositories, unpublished data sets, and other outlets that became available between 1973 and 2021. Flux observations are reported as diffusive, ebullitive, and total CH4 fluxes, and GriMeDB also includes 17 655 and 8409 concurrent measurements of concentrations and 4444 and 1521 fluxes for carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O), respectively. Most observations are date-specific (i.e., not site averages), and many are supported by data for 1 or more of 12 physicochemical variables and 6 site variables. Site variables include codes to characterize marginal channel types (e.g., springs, ditches) and/or the presence of human disturbance (e.g., point source inputs, upstream dams). Overall, observations in GRiMeDB encompass the broad range of the climatic, biological, and physical conditions that occur among world river basins, although some geographic gaps remain (arid regions, tropical regions, high-latitude and high-altitude systems). The global median CH4 concentration (0.20 µmol L−1) and diffusive flux (0.44 mmolm-2d-1) in GRiMeDB are lower than estimates from prior site-averaged compilations, although ranges (0 to 456 µmol L−1 and −136 to 4057 mmolm-2d-1) and standard deviations (10.69 and 86.4) are greater for this larger and more temporally resolved database. Available flux data are dominated by diffusive measurements despite the recognized importance of ebullitive and plant-mediated CH4 fluxes. Nonetheless, GriMeDB provides a comprehensive and cohesive resource for examining relationships between CH4 and environmental drivers, estimating the contribution of fluvial ecosystems to CH4 emissions, and contextualizing site-based investigations.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Catchments are complex systems containing channel networks and hillslopes. Channel networks interact with hillslopes and are pathways for transporting water, sediment, and nutrients. Understanding the branching and flux transport patterns of channel networks is critical for predicting the response of catchments to external forcing such as climate and tectonics. However, factors creating complexities in catchments are not fully understood. Here, we propose a new framework based on multiscale entropy approach to evaluate complexity of catchments using two different representations of channel networks. First, we investigate the structural complexity using the width‐function, which characterizes the spatial arrangement of channels. Second, we utilize the incremental area‐function along the main channel to study the functional complexity that captures the patterns of transport of fluxes. Our analysis reveals stronger controls of topological connectivity on the functional complexity than on structural complexity, indicating unchannelized surface (hillslope) contribution to the increase of heterogeneity in transport processes.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    High‐resolution topography reveals that floodplains along meandering rivers in Indiana commonly contain intermittently flowing channel networks. We investigated how the presence of floodplain channels affects lateral surface‐water connectivity between a river and floodplain (specifically exchange flux and timescales of transport) as a function of flow stage in a low‐gradient river‐floodplain system. We constructed a two‐dimensional, surface‐water hydrodynamic model using Hydrologic Engineering Center's River Analysis System (HEC‐RAS) 2D along 32 km of floodplain (56 km along the river) of the East Fork White River near Seymour, Indiana, USA, using lidar elevation data and surveyed river bathymetry. The model was calibrated using land‐cover specific roughness to elevation‐discharge data from a U.S. Geological Survey gage and validated against high‐water marks, an aerial photo showing the spatial extent of floodplain inundation, and measured flow velocities. Using the model results, we analyzed the flow in the river, spatial patterns of inundation, flow pathways, river‐floodplain exchange, and water residence time on the floodplain. Our results highlight that bankfull flow is an oversimplified concept for explaining river‐floodplain connectivity because some stream banks are overtopped and major low‐lying floodplain channels are inundated roughly 19 days per year. As flow increased, inundation of floodplain channels at higher elevations dissected the floodplain, until the floodplain channels became fully inundated. Additionally, we found that river‐floodplain exchange was driven by bank height or channel orientation depending on flow conditions. We propose a conceptual model of river‐floodplain connectivity dynamics and developed metrics to analyze quantitatively complex river‐floodplain systems.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Bedload is notoriously challenging to measure and model; its dynamics, therefore, remains largely unknown in most fluvial systems worldwide. We present results from a global scale bedload flux model as part of the WBMsed modeling framework that well predict the distribution of water discharge, suspended sediment and bedload. The sensitivity of bedload predictions to river slope, particle size, discharge, river width, and suspended sediment were analyzed, showing the model to be most responsive to spatial dynamics in river discharge and slope. The relationship between bedload and total sediment flux is analyzed globally, and for representative longitudinal river profiles (Amazon, Mississippi, and Lena Rivers). The results show that while the proportion of bedload decreases from headwaters to the coasts, there is considerable variability between basins and along river corridors. The topographic and hydrological longitudinal profiles of rivers are shown to be the key drivers of bedload trends, with fluctuations in slope controlling its more local dynamics. Estimates of water and sediment fluxes to global oceans from 2,067 largest river outlets (draining 67% of the global continental area) are provided. Estimated water discharge at 30,579 km3/y corresponds well to past estimates; however, sediment flux is higher. Total global particulate load of 17.8 Gt/y is delivered to global oceans, 14.8 Gt/y as washload, 1.1 Gt/y as bedload, and 2.6 Gt/y as suspended bed material. The largest 25 rivers are predicted to transport more than half of the total sediment flux to global oceans.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Confluences are important sites for mixing within river networks. Past work has shown that mixing within confluences is highly variable; in some cases flows mix rapidly and in other cases flows remain unmixed far downstream of the confluence. The fluvial processes that govern mixing within confluences remain poorly understood. This study relates patterns and amounts of mixing to three‐dimensional flow structure at three small confluences. It focuses on lateral fluxes of streamwise momentum, which theoretical considerations suggest should influence lateral mixing. Patterns and amounts of mixing differ at the three sites. Considerable mixing occurs at an asymmetrical confluence with strong helical motion within flow from the lateral tributary, which produces substantial differences in advective lateral transport of streamwise momentum over depth. Minor mixing occurs at a comparatively symmetrical confluence where incoming flows have relatively equal momentum fluxes; however, helical motion within one of the flows locally increases mixing. At a symmetrical confluence where one incoming flow has much greater momentum flux than the other, mixing occurs largely through progressive lateral shifting of the mixing interface toward the minor tributary because of the strong lateral flux of streamwise momentum by the dominant tributary. At all three confluences, lateral turbulent transport of streamwise momentum is an order of magnitude less than advective lateral transport of streamwise momentum. The study indicates that generalization of mixing at confluences remains challenging but that advective lateral fluxes of streamwise momentum related to secondary currents (helical motion) or primary flow (cross currents) greatly enhance mixing at confluences.

     
    more » « less