The importance of bed sediment sand content for the structure of a static armor layer in a gravel bed river

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Abstract

The surface structure of static armor layers generated from water-worked gravel bed channels was investigated with primary focus on the influence of sand content and flow rate. Flume experiments were conducted in which four sediment mixtures with sand contents between 1% and 38% were armored under one of three different flow rates. First- and second-order statistical analyses were applied to digital elevation models of unarmored, armored, and clustered bed surface areas to identify changes in surface structure. Results were combined with data from previous research to create an extended data set of armored bed surfaces. Water-worked, unarmored bed surfaces established under a dynamic equilibrium flow rate impacted the topographic variability and structure of the armored beds. Surface complexity decreased with armor formation as surface grains preferentially aligned with the flow direction. The bed surface became smoother, and where sediment mixture sand content was constant, there was greater smoothing of the surface during higher armoring flows as grains rearranged more easily. As bulk sand content increased, statistical analyses of the expanded data set showed that beds with very little sand content developed static armor layers that remained rough and had greater topographic variability than armor layers from sediments with higher sand contents. The bulk sediment sand content exerted a stronger influence over the change in surface roughness and structure upon armoring than that of the flow rate during armor formation. When combined with the knowledge of the local flow regime, the sand content may aid in predictions related to armored bed surface structure.

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