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Keywords:

  • meander;
  • floodplain construction;
  • sediment budget;
  • Beni River;
  • Amazonia

Abstract

The study investigates interactions, water and sediment exchanges, between a rapidly migrating meander and its associated floodplain at fine temporal and spatial scales. The Beni River, an Amazonian free meandering river, makes the transition between Andean ranges and Amazonian lowlands. For the period 2002–2006, an assemblage of tools and methods (water and sediment discharges, topometric and bathymetric surveys, sedimentation rate estimations from unsupported 210Pb and sediment trapping system) was used to jointly analyse the influence on the sediment budget of external factors (mainly water and sediment discharge) and the inherent behaviour of the system. The main issue addressed is the investigation of the complex relationship between ‘morphological conditioning’ of fluvial landform and process. The first part of the study was undertaken with the aim of linking erosion–deposition in an active meander with water and sediment fluxes. The three inter-annual evolutions are characterized by very unequal sediment budgets; the first two intervals underwent predominant erosion, and the latter slight accumulation. Digital elevation models, evaluated for the active meander, demonstrate that sedimentation on the point bar depends more on external factors than erosion of the concave bank, which fluctuates slightly. The second part of the study, focusing on water and sediment exchanges between active bend and floodplain, examines the respective parts played by overbank flow and by an abandoned channel on the diffusion and sequestration of sediment. The association of short- and long-term estimation of sedimentation rates suggests that floodplain construction is associated with two different processes and rhythms of sediment transportation. Finally, a sediment budget is proposed for the Beni River in the upper part of the Amazonian lowlands. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.