12 Apr 2023
 | 12 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Marsh induced backwater: the influence of non-fluvial sedimentation on a delta's channel morphology and kinematics

Kelly Sanks, John Shaw, Samuel Zapp, José Silvestre, Ripul Dutt, and Kyle Straub

Abstract. We investigate the interaction of fluvial and non-fluvial sedimentation on the channel morphology and kinematics of an experimental river delta. We compare two deltas: one that evolved with a proxy for non-fluvial sedimentation (treatment experiment) and one that evolved without the proxy (control). We show that the addition of the non-fluvial sediment proxy alters the delta's channel morphology and kinematics. Notably, the flow outside the channels is significantly reduced in the treatment experiment and the channels are deeper (as a function of radial distance) and longer. We also find that the treatment channels have the same width from the entrance to the shoreline, while the control channels get narrower as they approach the shore. Interestingly, the channel beds in the treatment experiment often exist below sea level in the terrestrial portion of the delta top creating a ~0.7 m reach of steady, nonuniform backwater flow. However, in the control experiment, the channel beds generally exist at or above relative sea level, creating channel movement resembling morphodynamic backwater kinematics and topographic flow expansions. Differences between channel and far-field aggradation produce a longer channel in-filling timescale for the treatment as compared to the control, suggesting that the channel avulsions triggered by a peak in channel sedimentation occur less frequently in the treatment experiment. Despite this difference, the basin-wide timescale of lateral channel mobility remains similar. Ultimately, non-fluvial sedimentation on the delta top plays a key role in the channel morphology and kinematics of an experimental river delta, producing channels which are more analogous to channels in global river deltas, and which cannot be produced solely by increasing cohesion in an experimental river delta.

Kelly Sanks et al.

Status: open (until 13 Jun 2023)

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Kelly Sanks et al.

Kelly Sanks et al.


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Short summary
River deltas encompass many depositional environments (like channels and wetlands) that interact to produce coastal environments that change through time. The processes leading to sedimentation in wetlands are often neglected from physical delta models. We show that wetland sedimentation constrains flow to the channels, changes sedimentation rates, and produces channels more akin to field-scale deltas. These results have implications for management of these vulnerable coastal landscapes.