Partial transport of a sand/gravel sediment


  • Peter R. Wilcock,

  • Brian W. McArdell


Grains of a single size within a mixed-size bed are entrained over a range of flows. Within this range some grains exposed on the bed surface are active (entrained at least once over the duration of a transport event), while the remaining surface grains are immobile, a condition we define as partial transport. We demonstrate the existence and domain of partial transport using observations of grain entrainment on time series of bed photographs of flume experiments with a widely sorted sand/gravel mixture. The active proportion of the bed surface increases with bed shear stress τ0. At a given τ0, 90% of the active grains are entrained when the cumulative mass transported exceeds approximately 4 times the active mass on the bed. Mobilization of grains in a size fraction increases from 10% to 90% over a range of τ0 of a factor of 2. The bounds of this range increase with grain size Di so that at a given τ0, sizes over a range of a factor of 4 are in a state of partial transport. Fractional transport rates are independent of Di for fully mobilized fractions and decrease rapidly with Di for partially mobile fractions. Partial transport is associated with substantial transport rates of finer, fully mobile sizes, limits both the rate and size distribution of grain exchange with the bed subsurface, and may be the dominant transport condition in many gravel-bed rivers.