A Mass-Balance Framework for Quantifying Downstream Changes in Fluvial Architecture

  1. Michael D. Blum3,
  2. Susan B. Marriott4 and
  3. Suzanne F. Leclair5
  1. Nikki Strong1,
  2. Ben Sheets1,
  3. Tom Hickson2 and
  4. Chris Paola1

Published Online: 17 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304350.ch14

Fluvial Sedimentology VII

Fluvial Sedimentology VII

How to Cite

Strong, N., Sheets, B., Hickson, T. and Paola, C. (2005) A Mass-Balance Framework for Quantifying Downstream Changes in Fluvial Architecture, in Fluvial Sedimentology VII (eds M. D. Blum, S. B. Marriott and S. F. Leclair), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304350.ch14

Editor Information

  1. 3

    Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

  2. 4

    School of Geography and Environmental Management, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK

  3. 5

    Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, Dimwiddie Hall, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Geology and Geophysics and St Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Geology, University of St Thomas, St Paul, MN, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 15 FEB 2005

Book Series:

  1. Special Publication Number 35 of the International Association of Sedimentologists

Book Series Editors:

  1. Ian Jarvis

Series Editor Information

  1. School of Earth Sciences and Geography, Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston-upon-Thames KT1 2EE, UK

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405126519

Online ISBN: 9781444304350



  • quantifying downstream changes in fluvial architecture;
  • alluvial architecture - first problems in physical stratigraphy to be analysed quantitatively;
  • Leeder–Allen–Bridge (LAB) models;
  • mass-balance transformation;
  • future generations of architecture models - tightly coupled with models for alluvial deposition and erosion on basin scales


It is still commonly believed that channel stacking density in alluvial cross-sections is controlled mainly by local subsidence rate, despite new models that emphasize the three-dimensionality of alluvial architecture. New data are presented from an experimental alluvial basin that show variation in the spatial distribution of deposition to be the main control on architecture, rather than subsidence per se. A simple coordinate transformation is proposed that maps downstream distance into the fraction of the sediment supply deposited to that point. Transforming measured sections into this ‘mass balance’ coordinate system removes much, although not all, of the observed variability in channel stacking density and grain size. Furthermore, removal of the dominant mass-balance effects via transformation to fraction deposited reveals more clearly those residual architectural effects that are not mass-balance controlled: for example, changes in channel size associated with fluctuations in water supply.