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Publication Type:

Journal Article


SedimentologySedimentology, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), Number ja (2018)






Biogeomorphology, desert, Fluvial, Great Salt Lake, sinuosity, vegetation


<p>Abstract Biotic forcing on river meandering is a highly debated topic in sedimentology. Vegetation is assumed to hold a vital role on channel stability and sinuosity, for example through bank stabilization and pedogenic production of cohesive clays. However, statistically solid and causal relationships between vegetation density and river sinuosity remain largely untested in natural systems. This study investigates physical and biotic forcings on channel sinuosity in the Bonneville Basin of Utah, an endorheic depression flanked by active fluvial networks (?washes?) that display diverse vegetation density and channel-planform style. By means of remote sensing and ground-data collection, fifty-eight washes are considered, 0.1 to 90 km2 in surface area and drained by trunk channels &lt;45 m wide and &lt;1.2 m deep. Each wash is composed of a catchment basin connected downstream to an aggradational and distributive channel network. Statistically solid regressions highlight the primary roles played by base level and catchment size on fluvial morphogenesis. In contrast, no correlation is found between vegetation density and other parameters such as trunk-channel width or surface area of the largest meander in a wash. Similarly, no statistical correlation exists between vegetation density and meander size or sinuosity index. Rather, larger and more sinuous meanders are invariably associated with lower vegetation density. These results are corroborated by field evidence showing that sparse vegetation promotes flow disturbance, channel branching and bar braiding instead of stabilizing sediment surfaces. Thus, river meandering is attributed to cohesion offered by mud retention within the endorheic basin, as well as discharge and stream-power modulation along bifurcating and low-gradient channel reaches. Hence, this work demonstrates how meandering-channel patterns may arise from entirely physical forcings in the absence of vegetation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.</p>