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Sediment routing hypothesis for pool-riffle maintenance

Milan, David J.



This paper provides comprehensive evidence that sediment routing around pools is a key mechanism for pool-riffle maintenance in sinuous upland gravel-bed streams. The findings suggest that pools do not require a reversal in energy for them to scour out any accumulated sediments, if little or no sediments are fed into them. A combination of clast tracing using passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagging and bedload traps (positioned along the thalweg on the upstream riffle, pool entrance, pool exit and downstream riffle) are used to provide information on clast pathways and sediment sorting through a single pool-riffle unit. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is also used to explore hydraulic variability and flow pathways. Clast tracing results provide a strong indication that clasts are not fed through pools, rather they are transported across point bar surfaces, or around bar edges (depending upon previous clast position, clast size, and event magnitude). Spatial variations in bedload transport were found throughout the pool-riffle unit. The pool entrance bedload trap was often found to be empty, when the others had filled, further supporting the notion that little or no sediment was fed into the pool. The pool exit slope trap would occasionally fill with sediment, thought to be sourced from the eroding outer bank. CFD results demonstrate higher pool shear stresses (τ ≈ 140 N m-2) in a localized zone adjacent to an eroding outer bank, compared to the upstream and downstream riffles (τ ≈ 60 N m-2) at flows of 6 · 2 m3 s-1 (≈ 60% of the bankfull discharge) and above. There was marginal evidence for near-bed velocity reversal. Near-bed streamlines, produced from velocity vectors indicate that flow paths are diverted over the bar top rather than being fed through the thalweg. Some streamlines appear to brush the outer edge of the pool for the 4 · 9 m3 s-1 to 7 · 8 m3 s-1 (between 50 and 80% of the bankfull discharge) simulations, however complete avoidance was found for discharges greater than this.


Milan, D. J. (2013). Sediment routing hypothesis for pool-riffle maintenance. Earth surface processes and landforms : the journal of the British Geomorphological Research Group, 38(14), 1623-1641.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 22, 2013
Online Publication Date May 8, 2013
Publication Date Oct 22, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Earth surface processes and landforms
Print ISSN 0197-9337
Electronic ISSN 1096-9837
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 14
Pages 1623-1641
Public URL
Publisher URL