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Effects of woody vegetation on overbank sand transport during a large flood, Rio Puerco, New Mexico

February 1, 2014

Distributions of woody vegetation on floodplain surfaces affect flood-flow erosion and deposition processes. A large flood along the lower Rio Puerco, New Mexico, in August 2006 caused extensive erosion in a reach that had been sprayed with herbicide in September 2003 for the purpose of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) control. Large volumes of sediment, including a substantial fraction of sand, were delivered to the reach downstream, which had not been treated with herbicide. We applied physically based, one-dimensional models of flow and suspended-sediment transport to compute volume concentrations of sand in suspension in floodplain flow at a site within the sprayed reach and at a site downstream from the sprayed reach. We computed the effects of drag on woody stems in reducing the skin friction shear stress, velocity of flow, and suspended-sand transport from open paths into patches of dense stems. Total flow and suspended-sand fluxes were computed for each site using well-constrained flood-flow depths, water-surface slopes, and measured shrub characteristics. Results show that flow in open paths carried high concentrations of sand in suspension with nearly uniform vertical distributions. Drag on woody floodplain stems reduced skin friction shear stresses by two orders of magnitude, yet sufficient velocities were maintained to transport sand more than 50 m into fields of dense, free-surface-penetrating stems. An increase in shrub canopy extent from 31% in the sprayed reach site to 49% in the downstream site was found to account for 69% of the computed decrease in discharge between the two sites. The results demonstrate the need to compute the spatial distribution of skin friction shear stress in order to effectively compute suspended-sand transport and to predict the fate of sediment and contaminants carried in suspension during large floods.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Effects of woody vegetation on overbank sand transport during a large flood, Rio Puerco, New Mexico
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.10.025
Authors Eleanor R. Griffin, Mariela C. Perignon, Jonathan M. Friedman, Gregory E. Tucker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geomorphology
Index ID 70176295
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch

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