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Vertical gradational variability of fines deposited in a gravel framework



Vertical gradational structures develop as sand infiltrates into static gravel beds. Understanding the vertical distribution of interstitial sand deposits will improve predictions of ecological suitability and hyporheic hydrodynamics. A series of flume experiments was performed to investigate fine infiltration processes. Four sand distributions were introduced into flows over gravel beds. After each experiment, bed cores were extracted and analysed in vertical layers to examine the gradational trends with depth. Vertical trends of fine content were highly sensitive to the relative grain-size distributions of the gravel bed and the introduced sand. For experiments with d15gravel/d85sand ratios 15·4 and larger unimpeded static percolation was observed, where sand filled the voids relatively uniformly from the bottom of the gravel layer to the top. Experiments with ratios 10·6 and smaller bridged. Sand clogged a thin layer of gravel pores near the bed surface, precluding subsequent infiltration. Interstitial sand deposits fined with depth of penetration for all experiments which was the result of three distinct but overlapping processes. (i) Granular sorting: As particles fell through the substrate, smaller material preferentially passed through the voids deeper into the gravel. (ii) Bed-load sorting: Size segregation occurs in the wake of the leading bed form as smaller particles saltate further and settle first. (iii) Hydraulic sorting: Smaller sand was transported preferentially as suspended load filling the deep voids of the furthest flume positions downstream. Finally, when the experiments that formed a bridge layer were replicated with higher bed shear stresses, less interstitial sand deposition was observed. Higher shear stresses transported coarse particles downstream more efficiently causing bridge layers to form earlier and allowing less time for suspended load to settle into the deeper substrate pores before the pathways were closed.