Bed material abrasion is a major control on the partitioning of basin‐scale sediment fluxes between coarse and fine material. While abrasion is traditionally treated as an exponential function of transport distance and a lithology‐specific abrasion coefficient, experimental studies have demonstrated greater complexity in the abrasion process: the rate of abrasion varies with clast angularity, transport rate, and grain size. Yet, few studies have attempted to assess the importance of these complexities in a field setting. Here, we develop a new method for rapidly quantifying baseline abrasion rate in the field via Schmidt Hammer Rock Strength. We use this method, along with measurements of gravel bar lithology, to quantify abrasion in the Suiattle River, a basin in the North Cascades of Washington State in which sediment supply to the channel is dominated by recurrent debris flows from a tributary draining Glacier Peak stratovolcano. Rapid downstream strengthening of river bar sediment and a preferential loss of weak, low‐density vesicular volcanic clasts relative to non‐vesicular ones suggest that abrasion is extremely effective in this system. The standard exponential model for downstream abrasion, using single‐lithology abrasion rates fails to reproduce observed downstream patterns in lithology and clast strength. Incorporating heterogeneity in source material strength as well as transport rate‐dependent abrasion largely resolves this failure. Further work is needed to develop a comprehensive quantitative framework for the dependence of bed material abrasion on grain size and transport rate.
Sediment transport and channel morphology in mountainous hillslope‐coupled streams reflect a mixture of hillslope and channel processes. However, the influence of lithology on channel form and adjustment and sediment transport remains poorly understood. Patterns of channel form, grain size, and transport capacity were investigated in two gravel‐bed streams with contrasting lithology (basalt and sandstone) in the Oregon Coast Range, USA, in a region in which widespread landslides and debris flows occurred in 1996. This information was used to evaluate threshold channel conditions and channel bed adjustment since 1996. Channel geometry, slope, and valley width were measured or extracted from LiDAR and sediment textures were measured in the surface and subsurface. Similar coarsening patterns in the first few kilometres of both streams indicated strong hillslope influences, but subsequent downstream fining was lithology‐dependent. Despite these differences, surface grain size was strongly related to shear stress, such that the ratio of available to critical shear stress for motion of the median surface grain size at bankfull stage was around one over most of the surveyed lengths. This indicated hydraulic sorting of supplied sediment, independent of lithology. We infer a cycle of adjustment to sediment delivered during the 1996 flooding, from threshold conditions, to non‐alluvial characteristics, to threshold conditions in both basins. The sandstone basin can also experience complete depletion of the gravel‐size alluvium to sand size, leading to bedrock exposure because of high diminution rates. Although debris flows being more frequent in a basalt basin, this system will likely display threshold‐like characteristics over a longer period, indicating that the lithologic control on channel adjustment is driven by differences in rock competence that control grain size and available gravel for bed load transport. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- p. 2365-2379
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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