Confluence effects in rivers: Interactions of basin scale, network geometry, and disturbance regimes

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Abstract

[1] We reviewed 14 studies documenting the effects of tributaries on river morphology at 167 confluences along 730 km of river spanning seven orders of magnitude in drainage area in western United States and Canada. In both humid and semiarid environments the probability of observing significant confluence-related changes in channel and valley morphology due to tributary influxes of sediment (e.g., changes in gradient, particle size, and terraces, etc.) increased with the size of the tributary relative to the main stem. Effects of confluences on river morphology are conditioned by basin shape and channel network patterns, and they include the nonlinear separation of geomorphically significant confluences in river networks. Other modifying factors include local network geometry and drainage density. Confluence-related landforms (i.e., fans, bars, terraces, etc.) are predicted to be dominated by older features in headwaters and younger features downstream, a pattern driven by the frequency and magnitude of floods and punctuated sediment supply that scale with watershed size.

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