The impact of hydrograph variability and frequency on sediment transport dynamics in a gravel-bed flume

Ben D. Plumb, Carmelo Juez, William K. Annable, Chris W. McKie, Mario J. Franca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A laboratory study was undertaken to investigate how changes in flow regime and hydrograph shape (number of cycled hydrographs and duration of each hydrograph) together impact bedload transport and resulting bed morphology. Three hydrologic conditions (experiments) representing different levels of urbanization, or analogously different flow regimes, were derived from measured hydrometric field data. Each experiment consisted of a series of hydrographs with equal peak discharge and varying frequency, duration and flashiness. Bedload transport was measured throughout each hydrograph and measurements of bed topography and surface texture were recorded after each hydrograph. The results revealed hysteresis loops in both the total and fractional transport, with more pronounced loops for longer duration hydrographs, corresponding to lower rate of unsteadiness until reaching the peak discharge (pre-urbanization conditions). Shorter duration hydrographs (urban conditions) displayed more time above critical shear stress thresholds leading to higher bedload transport rates and ultimately to more variable hysteresis patterns. Surface textures from photographic methods revealed surface armoring in all experiments, with larger armor ratios for longer duration hydrographs, speculated to be due to vertical sorting and more time for bed rearrangements to occur. The direction of bed surface adjustment was linked to bedload hysteresis, more precisely with clockwise hysteresis (longer hydrographs) typically resulting in bed coarsening. More frequent and shorter duration hydrographs result in greater relative channel adjustments in slope, topographic variability and surface texture.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • bedload hysteresis
  • cycled hydrograph
  • hydromodification
  • river morphology
  • sediment transport
  • unsteady flow
  • urbanization

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