Quantifying the Morphological Print of Bedload Transport

Alain Recking, Guillaume Piton, Daniel Vazquez-Tarrio, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bedload and river morphology interact in a strong feedback manner. Bedload conditions the development of river morphology along different space and time scales; however, by concentrating the flow in preferential paths, a given morphology controls bedload for a given discharge. As bedload is a non-linear response of shear stress, local morphology is likely to have a strong impact on bedload prediction when the shear stress is averaged over the section, as is usually done. This was investigated by comparing bedload measured in different bed morphologies (step-pool, plane bed, riffle-pool, braiding, and sand beds), with bedload measured in narrow flumes in the absence of any bed form, used here as a reference. The initial methodology consisted of fitting a bedload equation to the flume data. Secondly, the morphological signature of each river was studied as the distance to this referent equation. It was concluded that each morphology affects bedload in a different way. For a given average grain shear stress, the larger the river, the larger the deviation from the flume transport. Narrow streams are those morphologies that behave more like flumes; this is particularly true with flat beds, whereas results deviate from flumes to a greater extent in step-pools. The riffle-pool's morphology impacts bedload at different levels depending on the degree of bar development, considered here through the ratio D84/D50 which is used as a proxy for the local bed patchiness and morphology. In braiding rivers morphological effects are important but difficult to assess because width is dependent on transport rate. Bed morphology was found to have negligible effects in sand bed rivers where the Shields stress is usually sufficiently high to minimize the non-linearity effects when hydraulics is averaged over the section.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-822
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Bedload
  • Modeling
  • River morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the Morphological Print of Bedload Transport'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this