The Exchange of Fine Muddy Sediment in Gravel-Bed Fluvial Systems

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Virginia Tech


The presence of fine muddy sediment (grain size < 0.1 mm) in streams has many impacts on the fluvial system and those relying on it, both humans and aquatic biota. Previously, fine sediment was considered a washload and has been ignored in transport models. More recently, it has been treated as being transported once the surface gravel layer that stores it is able to be mobilized. We propose that the surface layer need not be mobilized in order for muddy sediment to travel through the fluvial system in a series of erosive and depositional events. Our first study uses a new in situ device to show how mud entrainment from immobile gravel beds behaves cohesionlessly and can be modeled using the framework of classic sand-based models modified to account for hiding effects present in the stream bed. It also provides a method to predict how deep into the surface layer of gravel entrainment of fine sediment will occur given flow and stream bed characteristics. The second study investigates the primary pathway that fine sediment is traveling to get captured within bluehead chub fish nests. It was determined that more deposition of mud occurred in the upstream half of the nest concluding that the primary pathway was hyporheic pumping through the nest. Capture efficiencies of the nests were also found to increase as the length of nests increased. Both of these studies provide supporting evidence in the need to transition modeling fine sediment transport as a series of deposition and resuspension.



fine sediment, entrainment, sediment transport, erosion, bluehead chub, spawning nests, deposition, siltation