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Grain size and topographical differences between static and mobile armour layers

Mao, Luca; Cooper, James R.; Frostick, Lynne E.


Luca Mao

James R. Cooper

Lynne E. Frostick


A series of laboratory flume experiments under conditions of sediment starvation (zero sediment feeding) and recirculation were conducted in order to identify the temporal evolution and surface properties of static and mobile armour layers. The experiments were carried out in an 8 m long flume using a bimodal grain-size mixture (D50 = 6·2 mm) and a range of shear stresses ranging from 4·0 to 8·6 N m-2. The results confirm that a static armour layer is coarser than a mobile one, and that the grain size of a mobile armour layer is rather insensitive to changes in the imposed flow strength. An analysis of laser scan bed surveys revealed the highly structured and imbricated nature of the static armour layer. Under these conditions the vertical roughness length scale of the bed diminished and it became topographically less complex at higher forming discharges. The topography of mobile armour layers created by rising discharges differed. They exhibited a greater roughness length scale and were less organized, despite the fact that the grain size of the surface material maintained an approximately constant value during recirculation. Also, the mobile armour tended to create larger cluster structures than static armour layers when formed by higher discharges. These differences were mainly due to the transport of the coarser fraction of bed sediments, which diminished to zero over the static armour because of being hidden within the bed, whereas in the mobile armour the coarser particles protruded into the flow and were actively transported, increasing the vertical roughness length scale. Overall, the results show that an examination of the grain size characteristics of armour layers cannot be used to infer sediment mobility and bed roughness. Detailed elevation models of exposed surfaces of gravel-bed rivers are required to provide critical insight on the sediment availability and sedimentation processes.


Mao, L., Cooper, J. R., & Frostick, L. E. (2011). Grain size and topographical differences between static and mobile armour layers. Earth surface processes and landforms : the journal of the British Geomorphological Research Group, 36(10), 1321-1334. doi:10.1002/esp.2156

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 15, 2011
Online Publication Date Mar 28, 2011
Publication Date Aug 1, 2011
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 36
Issue 10
Pages 1321-1334
Keywords Armouring; Laser scanner; Sediment surface structures; Gravel-bed rivers
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