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Convergent evolution of abrading flow obstacles: Insights from analogue modelling of fluvial bedrock abrasion by coarse bedload

Abstract : Upstream-facing convex surfaces (UFCS) are formed by bedload abrasion in bedrock rivers and indicate the recent, significant action of bedload abrasion in causing channel incision. Beyond this, little is known of the dynamics of UFCS and the effect of substrate and bedload properties on rates and distribution of bedload abrasion for these bed roughness elements. Grain size populations from 1 to 8 cm (b-axis, in 1- or 2-cm bin widths) were used to bombard preshaped marble and limestone targets bolted to the base of an annular flume. The control of initial shape and lithology of the target and the erodent grain size and lithology were investigated by monitoring the evolution of the target form using laser scanning at predefined time intervals. Eleven experiment suites were carried out containing three initial target shapes constructed from two lithologies, four bedload (erodent) grain sizes of either granodiorites or limestone, or clear water flow. All 10 targets abraded by bedload evolved from their initial form into a steady state (time invariant) form, producing UFCSs. Steady state forms were closely similar for all targets despite different initial conditions. Bedload grain size has a strong control on this equilibrium form, related to the transit path of the grains when moving over the target, whilst initial target form has only a weak control. Steady state morphology is achieved more rapidly with harder erodent bedload particles and/or softer targets. Upstream-facing convex surface stoss sides were characterised by a brighter, sugary, granular appearance on the rock-forming grain scale. Increasing erodent grain size, for a fixed bedload mass, increased the bulk abrasion rate at fixed flow speed and discharge. No detectable erosion occurred for a limestone block in clear water flows under the same flow conditions, indicating solution and cavitation were insignificant mechanisms of erosion in this study. During the experiment suites, suspended load abrasion was also found to be an insignificant mechanism in eroding lee or lateral sides. In natural settings, the initial formation of UFCSs can occur for homogenous and/or jointed substrates in close association with plucking or, alternatively, for heterogeneous substrates by variation in substrate erodibility.
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Andrew Wilson, Jérôme Lavé. Convergent evolution of abrading flow obstacles: Insights from analogue modelling of fluvial bedrock abrasion by coarse bedload. Geomorphology, 2014, 208, pp.207 - 224. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.11.024⟩. ⟨hal-01765252⟩



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