Investigating step-pool sequence stability

Authors

  • Kevin A. Waters,

    1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Virginia,Charlottesville, Virginia,USA
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  • Joanna Crowe Curran

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Virginia,Charlottesville, Virginia,USA
    • Corresponding author: J. C. Curran, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Virginia, PO Box 400742, Thornton Hall B228, 351 McCormick Ave., Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA. (curran@virginia.edu)

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Abstract

[1] Step-pool units, common features in steep, narrow streams, are highly dynamic systems that adjust during high flows and active sediment transport conditions. Consecutive step pools in a reach form a step-pool sequence, and though these features are prevalent in nature, quantifying the stability of such systems is challenging. This study focuses on the statistical relationships between 445 stable sequences of three or more steps and nine geometric and resistance-based parameters. Step sequence stability is parameterized through a sequence stability parameter, a metric of how long a given step-pool sequence exists relative to the total run time. Despite variability in the strength of the statistical relationships, the results allow identification of dominant trends between sequence stability and both roughness and geometric parameters. The sediment concentration ratio provides a means for comparing the relative strength of these statistical relationships. As sediment concentration ratios increase, the relations between flow resistance parameters and step stability change from dominantly inverse to dominantly direct. Thus, at higher sediment concentration ratios, sequence stability is more likely to increase with flow resistance, but the reverse is more likely at low sediment concentration ratios. A connection exists between bed morphology, flow resistance, and stability. For the majority of stable step sequences, resistance parameters increase over time, indicating some sequences adjust their geometry to increase stability during flood events. The influence of sediment concentration over the stability-geometric and stability-resistance parameter relationships may enable the use of the sediment concentration ratio as a predictor of step sequence stability during a flow event.

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