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Experimental study of the role of grain size in erosion of bedrock channels by abrasion

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The morphology of mountainous areas is strongly influenced by stream bed incision rates, but most studies of landscape evolution consider erosion at basin scales or larger. The research here attempts

The morphology of mountainous areas is strongly influenced by stream bed incision rates, but most studies of landscape evolution consider erosion at basin scales or larger. The research here attempts to understand the smaller-scale mechanics of erosion on exposed bedrock channels in the conceptual framework of an established saltation-abrasion model by Sklar and Dietrich [2004]. The recirculating flume used in this experiment allows independent control of bed slope, water discharge rate, sediment flux, and sediment grain size – all factors often bundled together in simple models of river incision and typically cross-correlated in natural settings. This study investigates the mechanics of erosion on exposed bedrock channels caused by abrasion of transported particles. Of particular interest are saltating particles, as well as sediment near the threshold between saltation and suspension - sediment vigorously transported but with significant interaction with the bed. The size of these erosive tools are varied over an order of magnitude in mean grain diameter, including a sand of D¬50 = 0.56 mm, and three gravel sizes of 3.39, 4.63, and 5.88 mm. Special consideration was taken to prevent any flow conditions that created a persistent alluvial cover. The erodible concrete substrate is fully exposed at all times during experiments reported here. Rates of erosion into the concrete substrate (a bedrock proxy) were measured by comparing topographic data before and after each experimental run, made possible by a precision laser mounted on a high speed computer-controlled cart. The experimental flume was able to produce flow discharge as high as 75 liters per second, sediment fluxes (of many varieties) up to 215 grams per second, and bed slopes up to 10%. I find a general positive correlation is found between erosion rate and bed slope, shear stress, grain size, and sediment flux.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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¹³⁷Cs and ²¹⁰Pb in the San Gabriel Mountains, California: erosion rates, processes and implications

Description

Numerous studies have examined the interplay of climate, tectonics, biota and erosion and found that these variables are intertwined in a complicated system of feedbacks and as a result, some

Numerous studies have examined the interplay of climate, tectonics, biota and erosion and found that these variables are intertwined in a complicated system of feedbacks and as a result, some of these factors are often oversimplified or simply neglected. To understand the interplay of these factors one must understand the processes that transport or inhibit transport of soil. This study uses the short-lived, fallout-derived, radionuclides 137Cs and 210Pb to identify soil transport processes and to quantify soil transport using the profile distribution model for 137Cs. Using five field sites in the San Gabriel Mountains of California, I address four questions: (1) Is there a process transition between high and low gradient slopes observable with short-lived isotopes? (2) Do convex hilltops reflect short-term equilibrium erosion rates? (3) Do linear transects of pits accurately characterize hillslope averaged erosion rates? and (4) What role does fire play on short-term soil transport and isotope distribution? I find no evidence supporting a process transition from low gradient to high gradient slopes but also find that significant spatial variability of erosion rates exist. This spatial variability is the result of sensitivity of the method to small scale variations in isotopes and indicates that small scale processes may dominate broader scale trends. I find that short-term erosion rates are not at equilibrium on a convex hilltop and suggest the possibility of a headward incision signal. Data from a post-fire landscape indicates that fires may create complications in 137Cs and 210Pb distribution that current models for erosion calculation do not account for. I also find that across all my field sites soil transport processes can be identified and quantified using short-lived isotopes and I suggest high resolution grid sampling be used instead of linear transects so that small scale variability can be averaged out.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Anthropocene in the geomorphology of the Sonoran Desert

Description

Human endeavors move 7x more volume of earth than the world’s rivers accelerating the removal of Earth’s soil surface. Measuring anthropogenic acceleration of soil erosion requires knowledge of natural rates

Human endeavors move 7x more volume of earth than the world’s rivers accelerating the removal of Earth’s soil surface. Measuring anthropogenic acceleration of soil erosion requires knowledge of natural rates through the study of 10Be, but same-watershed comparisons between anthropogenically-accelerated and natural erosion rates do not exist for urbanizing watersheds. Here I show that urban sprawl from 1989 to 2013 accelerated soil erosion between 1.3x and 15x above natural rates for different urbanizing watersheds in the metropolitan Phoenix region, Sonoran Desert, USA, and that statistical modeling a century of urban sprawl indicates an acceleration of only 2.7x for the Phoenix region. Based on studies of urbanization’s erosive effects, and studies comparing other land-use changes to natural erosion rates, we expected a greater degree of urban acceleration. Given that continued urban expansion will add a new city of a million every five days until 2050, given the potential importance of urban soils for absorbing anthropogenically-released carbon, and given the role of urban-sourced pollution, quantifying urbanization’s acceleration of natural erosion in other urban settings could reveal important regional patterns. For example, a comparison of urban watersheds to nearby non-urban watersheds suggests that the Phoenix case study is on the low-end of the urban acceleration factor. This new insight into the urban acceleration of soil erosion in metropolitan Phoenix can help reduce the acute risk of flooding for many rapidly urbanizing desert cities around the globe. To reduce this risk, properly engineered Flood Control Structures must account for sediment accumulation as well as flood waters. While the Phoenix area used regional data from non-urban, non-desert watersheds to generate sediment yield rates, this research presents a new analysis of empirical data for the Phoenix metropolitan region, where two regression models provide estimates of a more realistic sediment accumulation for arid regions and also urbanization of a desert cities. The new model can be used to predict the realistic sediment accumulation for helping provide data where few data exists in parts of arid Africa, southwest Asia, and India.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Novel biopolymer treatment for wind induced soil erosion

Description

It is estimated that wind induced soil transports more than 500 x 106 metric tons of fugitive dust annually. Soil erosion has negative effects on human health, the productivity of

It is estimated that wind induced soil transports more than 500 x 106 metric tons of fugitive dust annually. Soil erosion has negative effects on human health, the productivity of farms, and the quality of surface waters. A variety of different polymer stabilizers are available on the market for fugitive dust control. Most of these polymer stabilizers are expensive synthetic polymer products. Their adverse effects and expense usually limits their use. Biopolymers provide a potential alternative to synthetic polymers. They can provide dust abatement by encapsulating soil particles and creating a binding network throughout the treated area. This research into the effectiveness of biopolymers for fugitive dust control involved three phases. Phase I included proof of concept tests. Phase II included carrying out the tests in a wind tunnel. Phase III consisted of conducting the experiments in the field. Proof of concept tests showed that biopolymers have the potential to reduce soil erosion and fugitive dust transport. Wind tunnel tests on two candidate biopolymers, xanthan and chitosan, showed that there is a proportional relationship between biopolymer application rates and threshold wind velocities. The wind tunnel tests also showed that xanthan gum is more successful in the field than chitosan. The field tests showed that xanthan gum was effective at controlling soil erosion. However, the chitosan field data was inconsistent with the xanthan data and field data on bare soil.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011