The development of bedforms under unidirectional, oscillatory and combined-flows results from temporal changes in sediment transport, flow and morphological response. In such flows, the bedform characteristics (for example, height, wavelength and shape) change over time, from their initiation to equilibrium with the imposed conditions, even if the flow conditions remain unchanged. These variations in bedform morphology during development are reflected in the sedimentary structures preserved in the rock record. Hence, understanding the time and morphological development in which bedforms evolve to an equilibrium stage is critical for informed reconstruction of the ancient sedimentary record. This article presents results from a laboratory flume study on bedform development and equilibrium development time conducted under purely unidirectional, purely oscillatory and combined-flow conditions, which aimed to test and extend an empirical model developed in past work solely for unidirectional ripples. The present results yield a unified model for bedform development and equilibrium under unidirectional, oscillatory and combined-flows. The experimental results show that the processes of bedform genesis and growth are common to all types of flows, and can be characterized into four stages: (i) incipient bedforms; (ii) growing bedforms; (iii) stabilizing bedforms; and (iv) fully developed bedforms. Furthermore, the development path of bedform; growth exhibits the same general trend for different flow types (for example, unidirectional, oscillatory and combined-flows), bedform size (for example, small versus large ripples), bedform shape (for example, symmetrical or rounded), bedform planform geometry (for example, two-dimensional versus three-dimensional), flow velocities and sediment grain sizes. The equilibrium time for a wide range of bed configurations was determined and found to be inversely proportional to the sediment transport flux occurring for that flow condition.
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