Bed material texture in low order streams on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia

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Abstract

Low order channels comprise a large proportion of the links of every drainage basin, and are often at the centre of land management concerns. They exhibit hydrological and geomorphological characteristics atypical of higher order links. This paper examines the nature and causes of variations in the bed material texture of two streams on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. The extant, functional exponential model is found to be inadequate for explaining observed changes in grain size parameters with distance downstream. Recurrent disruption of sediment transport by large organic debris jams, and the sporadic contamination of the fluvial sediment population by colluvial inputs, preclude the development of longitudinal structure. Rather, grain size varies erratically over short distances. A stochastic model best describes the observed variations, and should be adopted as an alternative to the exponential model in low order links. Characteristic variances are controlled by the degree of hillslope-channel coupling, and the extent and characteristics of non-alluvial storage mechanisms.

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