Untangling the controls on bedload transport in a wood‐loaded river with RFID tracers and linear mixed modelling

Miles J. Clark, Georgina L. Bennett, Sandra E. Ryan-Burkett, David A. Sear, Aldina M. A. Franco

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Abstract

Bedload transport is a fundamental process by which coarse sediment is transferred through landscapes by river networks and may be well described stochastically by distributions of grain step length and rest time obtained through tracer studies. To date, none of these published tracer studies have specifically investigated the influence of large wood in the river channel on sediment transport dynamics, limiting the applicability of stochastic sediment transport models in these settings. Large wood is a major component of many forested rivers and is increasing due to anthropogenic ‘Natural Flood Management’ (NFM) practices. This study aims to investigate and model the influence of large wood on grain-scale bedload transport. We tagged 957 cobble to pebble sized particles (D 50 = 73 mm) and 28 pieces of large wood (> 1 m in length) with radio frequency identification (RFID) tracers in an alpine mountain stream. We monitored the transport distance of tracers annually over 3 years, building distributions of tracer transport distances with which to compare with published distributions from wood free settings. We also applied linear mixed modelling (LMM), to tease out the influence of wood from other controls on likelihood of entrainment, deposition, and the transport distances of sediments. Tracer sediments accumulated both upstream and downstream of large wood pieces, with LMM analysis confirming a reduction in the probability of entrainment of tracers closer to wood in all 3 years. Upon remobilization, tracers entrained from positions closer to large wood had shorter subsequent transport distances in each year. In 2019, large wood also had a trapping effect, significantly reducing the transport distances of tracer particles entrained from upstream, that is forcing premature deposition of tracers. This study demonstrates the role of large wood in influencing bedload transport in alpine stream environments, with implications for both natural and anthropogenic addition of wood debris in fluvial environments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Early online date12 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • RFID
  • bedload transport
  • large wood
  • linear mixed modelling
  • tracers

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