• Rock fragment cover;
  • Roughness elements;
  • Hydraulics of overland flow;
  • Local turbulence;
  • Bed morphology;
  • Scour holes;
  • Sediment yield;
  • Soil erosion


The interactions between overland flow hydraulics and sediment yield were studied in flume experiments on erodible soil surfaces covered by rock fragments. The high erodibility of a non-cohesive fine sediment (D50 + 0·09mm) permitted the effects of local turbulence and scour on sediment yield to be examined. Overland flow hydraulics and sediment yield were compared for experiments with pebble (D50 + 1·5cm) and cobble (D50 + 8·6cm) rock fragment covers. Cover percentages range from 0 to 99 per cent. Rock fragment size strongly affects the relations between flow hydraulics and rock fragment cover. For pebbles spatially-averaged hydraulic parameters (flow velocity, flow depth, effective flow width, unit discharge, total shear stress, Darcy-Weisbach friction factor, percentage grain friction and grain shear stress) vary most rapidly within cover percentages at low covers (power functions). In contrast, for cobbles these parameters vary most rapidly within cover percentages at high covers (exponential functions). As the type of the function that describes the relation between flow hydraulics and cover percentage can be deduced from the ratio of rock fragment height to flow depth, the continuity equation can be employed to determine the actual coefficients of the functions, provided the regression of one hydraulic parameter (e.g. flow velocity) with cover percentage is known and a good estimate exists for two values of another hydraulic variable for a low and a high cover percentage.

The variation of sediment yield with cover percentage is also strongly dependent on rock fragment size, but neither the convex-upward relation for pebbles, nor the positive relation for cobbles can be solely attributed to the spatially averaged hydraulics of sheet-flow. Rock fragments induce local turbulence that leads to scour hole development on the stoss side of the rock fragments while deposition commonly occurs in the wake. This local scour and deposition substantially affects sediment yield. However, scour dimensions cannot be predicted by spatially averaged flow hydraulics. An adjustment of existing scour formulas that predict scour around bridge piers is suggested. Sediment yield from non-cohesive soils might then be estimated by a combination of sediment transport and scour formulas.