2023 CSDMS meeting-062


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Stepped bedrock channels: morphologies, and their influence on erosion rates

Sophie Rothman, (She/her),University of Nevada, Reno Reno Nevada, United States. sophie.rothman@nevada.unr.edu

The development of bedrock steps and waterfalls in mountain rivers locally changes flow hydraulics and can thereby alter patterns of sediment transport and erosion. While bedrock steps are thought to erode sometimes faster and sometimes slower than river reaches eroding without steps, it is unclear how differences in step frequency and morphology (e.g., the presence of many small bedrock steps and waterfalls versus the presence of a single large waterfall) alter channel dynamics and erosion rates at the reach scale. Furthermore, we do not know whether some or all step-rich channels are part of a transient knickzone or could be formed at steady state. Here, we use cosmogenic beryllium-10 (Be-10) erosion rates to examine whether bedrock steps alter the reach-averaged erosion rate. We find that all step-rich channels erode faster than or equal to catchment-average rates and preliminary analyses show that reach-scale erosion rates increase with increasing sediment flux, increasing grain size, and increasing step frequency. We compare our field results with a reach-scale erosion model we developed that combines both fluvial erosion at bedrock steps and fluvial erosion in reaches lacking steps. Our new reach-scale erosion model allows us to infer changes in erosion rates as a function of step frequency and step and channel morphology (e.g. dimensions of steps, and width and slope of channel between steps). This model will help interpret the impact of bedrock steps on erosion rates and determine their role in either adjusting or maintaining river profiles.