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The role of lateral erosion in the evolution of nondendritic drainage networks to dendricity and the persistence of dynamic networks
Dendritic, i.e., tree-like, river networks are ubiquitous features on Earth’s landscapes; however, how and why river networks organize themselves into this form are incompletely understood. A branching pattern has been argued to be an optimal state. Therefore, we should expect models of river evolution to drastically reorganize (suboptimal) purely nondendritic networks into (more optimal) dendritic networks. To date, current physically based models of river basin evolution are incapable of achieving this result without substantial allogenic forcing. Here, we present a model that does indeed accomplish massive drainage reorganization. The key feature in our model is basin-wide lateral incision of bedrock channels. The addition of this submodel allows for channels to laterally migrate, which generates river capture events and drainage migration. An important factor in the model that dictates the rate and frequency of drainage network reorganization is the ratio of two parameters, the lateral and vertical rock erodibility constants. In addition, our model is unique from others because its simulations approach a dynamic steady state. At a dynamic steady state, drainage networks persistently reorganize instead of approaching a stable configuration. Our model results suggest that lateral bedrock incision processes can drive major drainage reorganization and explain apparent long-lived transience inmore »
How canyons evolve by incision into bedrock: Rainbow Canyon, Death Valley National Park, United States
Incising rivers may be confined by low-slope, erodible hillslopes or steep, resistant sidewalls. In the latter case, the system forms a canyon. We present a morphodynamic model that includes the essential elements of a canyon incising into a plateau, including 1) abrasion-driven channel incision, 2) migration of a canyon-head knickpoint, 3) sediment feed from an alluvial channel upstream of the knickpoint, and 4) production of sediment by sidewall collapse. We calculate incision in terms of collision of clasts with the bed. We calculate knickpoint migration using a moving-boundary formulation that allows a slope discontinuity where the channel head meets an alluvial plateau feeder channel. Rather than modeling sidewall collapse events, we model long-term behavior using a constant sidewall slope as the channel incises. Our morphodynamic model specifically applies to canyon, rather than river–hillslope evolution. We implement it for Rainbow Canyon, CA. Salient results are as follows: 1) Sediment supply from collapsing canyon sidewalls can be substantially larger than that supplied from the feeder channel on the plateau. 2) For any given quasi-equilibrium canyon bedrock slope, two conjugate slopes are possible for the alluvial channel upstream, with the lower of the two corresponding to a substantially lower knickpoint migration rate andmore »