Bed material transport estimate in large gravel-bed rivers using the virtual velocity approach


Type: Link Language: English Author: Luca Mao, Lorenzo Picco, Mario Lenz, Nicola Surian

This paper reports on a first attempt of using the virtual velocity approach to assess sediment mobility and transport in two wide and complex gravel-bed rivers of northern Italy. Displacement length and virtual velocity of spray-painted tracers were measured in the field. Also, the thickness of the sediment active layer during floods was measured using scour chains and post-flood morphological changes as documented by repeated survey of channel cross-sections. The effects of eight and seven floods were studied on the Tagliamento and Brenta Rivers, where 259 and 277 spray-painted areas were surveyed, respectively. In the Tagliamento River 36% of the spray-painted areas experienced partial transport, whereas in the Brenta River this accounted for 20%. Whereas, full removal/gravel deposition was observed on 37% and 26% of these areas on the Tagliamento and Brenta Rivers, respectively. The mean displacement length of particles, the thickness of the active layer and the extent of partial transport are well correlated with the dimensionless shear stress. The virtual velocity approach allowed calculation of bed material transport over a wide range of flood magnitudes. Annual coarse sediment transport was calculated up to 150 for the Tagliamento, and 30 × 103  m3 yr−1 for the Brenta. The outcomes of this work highlight the relevance of partial transport condition, as it could represent more than 70% of the total bed material transported during low-magnitude floods, and up to 40% for near-bankfull events. Results confirm that bed material load tends to be overestimated by traditional formulas.

Keywords: gravel transport, sediment

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