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Title: Balancing aggradation and progradation on a vegetated delta: The importance of fluctuating discharge in depositional systems

Vegetation is an important component of constructional landscapes, as plants enhance deposition and provide organic sediment that can increase aggradation rates to combat land loss. We conducted two sets of laboratory experiments using alfalfa ( Medicago sativa) to determine the effects of plants on channel organization and large-scale delta dynamics. In the first set, we found that rapid vegetation colonization enhanced deposition but inhibited channelization via increased form drag that reduced the shear stress available for sediment entrainment and transport. A second set of experiments used discharge fluctuations between flood and base flow (or interflood). Interfloods were critical for reworking the topset via channel incision and lateral migration to create channel relief and prevent rapid plant colonization. These low flow periods also greatly reduced the topset slope in the absence of vegetation by removing topset sediment and delivering it to the shoreline. Floods decreased relief by filling channels with sediment, resulting in periods of rapid progradation and enhanced aggradation over the topset surface, which was amplified by vegetation. The combination of discharge fluctuations and vegetation thus provided a balance of vertical aggradation and lateral progradation. We conclude that plants can inhibit channelization in depositional systems, and that discharge fluctuations encouragemore » channel network organization to naturally balance against aggradation. Furthermore, variations in discharge are an important aspect of understanding the ecomorphodynamics of aggrading surfaces and modeling vegetated deltaic systems, and the combined influences of plants and discharge variations can act to balance vertical and lateral delta growth.« less
ORCiD logo [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ; ORCiD logo [3]
  1. Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (United States); Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  2. Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (United States)
  3. Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (United States); Rice Univ., Houston, TX (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2169-9003
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research. Earth Surface
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 122; Journal Issue: 10; Journal ID: ISSN 2169-9003
American Geophysical Union
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation (NSF); USDOE
Country of Publication:
United States
58 GEOSCIENCES; Earth Sciences
OSTI Identifier: