New Paper: Deposition of Clay in Gravel Beds

Our paper on the deposition of suspended clay to gravel beds was recently published in Water Resources Research:

Mooneyham, C. and Strom, K. (2018). Deposition of Suspended Clay to Open and Sand-Filled Framework Gravel Beds in a Laboratory Flume. Water Resources Research. doi: 10.1002/2017WR020748

Abstract: Pulses of fine sediment composed of sand, silt, and clay can be introduced to gravel bed rivers through runoff from burn-impacted hillslopes, landslides, bank failure, or the introduction of reservoir sediment as a result of sluicing or dam decommissioning. Here we present a study aimed at quantifying exchange between suspensions of clay and gravel beds. The questions that motivate the work are: how do bed roughness and pore space characteristics, shear velocity (u*), and initial concentration (C0) affect clay deposition on or within gravel beds? Where does deposition within these beds occur, and can deposited clay be resuspended while the gravel is immobile? We examine these questions in a laboratory flume using acrylic, open-framework gravel, and armored sand-gravel beds under conditions of varying u* and C0.


Deposition of clay occurred to all beds (even with Rouse numbers ∼ 0.01). We attribute deposition under full suspension conditions to be an outcome of localized protected zones where clay can settle and available pore space in the bed. For smooth wall cases, protection came from the viscous wall region and the development of bed forms; for the rough beds, protection came from separation zones and low-velocity pore spaces.

Bed porosity was the strongest influencer of nondimensional deposition rate; deposition increased with porosity. Deposition was inversely related to u* for the acrylic bed runs; no influence of u* was found for the porous bed runs. Increases in discharge resulted in resuspension of clay from acrylic beds; no resuspension was observed in the porous bed runs.