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Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Bed load and suspended load contributions to migrating sand dunes in equilibrium

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Abstract

Dunes dominate the bed of sand rivers and are of central importance in predicting flow roughness and water levels. The present study has focused on the details of flow and sediment dynamics along migrating sand dunes in equilibrium. Using a recently developed acoustic system (Acoustic Concentration and Velocity Profiler), new insights are obtained in the behavior of the bed and the suspended load transport along mobile dunes. Our data have illustrated that, due to the presence of a dense sediment layer close to the bed and migrating secondary bedforms over the stoss side of the dune toward the dune crest, the near-bed flow and sediment processes are significantly different from the near-bed flow and sediment dynamics measured over fixed dunes. It was observed that the shape of the total sediment transport distribution along dunes is mainly dominated by the bed load transport, although the bed load and the suspended load transport are of the same order of magnitude. This means that it was especially the bed load transport that is responsible for the continuous erosion and deposition of sediment along the migrating dunes. Whereas the bed load is entirely captured in the dune with zero transport at the flow reattachment point, a significant part of the suspended load is advected to the downstream dune depending on the flow conditions. For the two flow conditions measured, the bypass fraction was about 10% for flow with a Froude number (Fr) of 0.41 and 27% for flow with Froude number of 0.51. This means that respectively 90% (for the Fr = 0.41 flow) and 73% (for the Fr = 0.51 flow) of the total sediment load that arrived at the dune crests contributed to the migration of the dunes.

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