Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Large-scale patterns of erosion and sediment transport in river networks, with examples from Australia

Ian P. Prosser, Ian D. Rutherfurd, Jon M. Olley, William J. Young, Peter J. Wallbrink and Chris J. Moran

Marine and Freshwater Research 52(1) 81 - 99
Published: 2001


This paper examines the patterns of sediment transport in rivers in terms of the sources of sediment and its transport and deposition through the river network. The analysis is in the context of dramatic human influences on river sediment transport and how they might influence freshwater ecosystems. The review of Australian work shows that erosion of hillslopes and stream banks has greatly increased in historical times, supplying vast quantities of sediment to rivers, much of which is still stored within the river system. The stored sediment will continue to effect in-stream and estuarine ecosystems for many decades. In most Australian catchments the dominant source of sediment is streambank erosion. An analysis of historical channel widening suggests that a conceptual framework of relative stream power can explain the diversity of behaviour observed in the numerous case studies. Sediment delivery through catchments is considered first in a generic whole network sense, which emphasizes the crucial role played by riverine deposition in determining catchment sediment budgets. A method is then presented for analysing the diverse spatial patterns of sediment storage in any river network. Finally, the paper considers the temporal changes to channel morphology in response to a human-induced pulse of sediment.

© CSIRO 2001

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