Effects of sediment supply on surface textures of gravel-bed rivers


  • John M. Buffington,

  • David R. Montgomery


Using previously published data from flume studies, we test a new approach for quantifying the effects of sediment supply (i.e., bed material supply) on surface grain size of equilibrium gravel channels. Textural response to sediment supply is evaluated relative to a theoretical prediction of competent median grain size (D50). We find that surface median grain size (D50) varies inversely with sediment supply rate and systematically approaches the competent value (D50) at low equilibrium transport rates. Furthermore, equilibrium transport rate is a power function of the difference between applied and critical shear stresses and is therefore a power function of the difference between competent and observed median grain sizes (D50 and D50). Consequently, we propose that the difference between predicted and observed median grain sizes can be used to determine sediment supply rate in equilibrium channels. Our analysis framework collapses data from different studies toward a single relationship between sediment supply rate and surface grain size. While the approach appears promising, we caution that it has been tested only on a limited set of laboratory data and a narrow range of channel conditions.