Structural patterns in coarse gravel river beds: Typology, survey and assessment of the roles of grain size and river regime

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The concept of river-bed stability as indexed by the occurrence of stable bed forms was examined in humid-temperate perennial streams and in Mediterranean ephemeral streams. The study examined the structural patterns of bed forms and their spatial distribution between temperate-humid and Mediterranean streams. Study sites in Northumberland, UK, and Mt. Carmel, Israel, were selected for their morphometric similarity, despite the contrast in climate, vegetation and hydrological regime. Fieldwork was based on a large number of Wolman grain size distributions and structure measurements along cross-sections at seven sites; Differences in mean grain size of bed structures were estimated using the general linear model (GLM) procedure and Duncan's multiple range test. Based on field evidence, river-bed configurations were divided into structural categories, according to the depositional setting of each measured particle on the river bed. Statistical analysis confirmed former qualitative descriptions of small-scale bed forms. The study identified spatial segregation in bed form distribution. In general, 30-40% of the bed material in the surveyed perennial streams was clustered, in contrast to approximately 10% in the ephemeral counterparts. The sorting index revealed higher values for the perennial streams, namely 2.39-3.59 compared with 1.73-2.07 for the ephemeral counterparts. It is suggested that the degree of sediment sorting and the proportion of clusters are strongly related. Sediment sorting, sediment supply and the hydrological regime explain the mechanism of cluster formation. It is assumed that climate shifts or human interference within river basins might affect the regional characteristic flood hydrograph, and consequently alter the sedimentary character of the river bed. In the case where river bed stability is reduced owing to changes in cluster bed form distribution, rivers that normally do not yield a significant amount of sediment might be subject to notable sedimentation problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-37
Number of pages13
JournalGeografiska Annaler, Series A: Physical Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Geology


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