Mark Naylor’s Blog

Mark Naylor’s Blog

I want to know how the Earth works…

Sounding out the river: a new system for monitoring bedload mobilisation and transportation

The challenge

Recording the onset and flux of sediment bedload in rivers is a missing component of our digitally enabled environment. The mobilisation and transport of coarse bedload has a profound impact on the evolution of mountain rivers and the alluvial plains they feed [1]; this then impacts communities that depend on these rivers for agriculture. For example, bedload played a key role in a major channel avulsion of the Kosi River (Nepal) in 2008 which resulted in the displacement of ~2.9M vulnerable people and the deposition of gravels across agricultural land caused the long-term devastation of arable land [2]. During extreme events, the erosive impact of flood waters poses a risk to infrastructure such as undercutting of bridges and embankments [3] and the dynamic nature of the bed creates uncertainty for river and flood management [4]. In the longer term, where climate change drives increased frequency and severity of flood events, the bedload mobilisation can propagate these effects through the landscape. Our ability to forecast the evolution of such systems is particularly difficult because (i) mobilisation occurs at a finite threshold flow rate which changes between events, (ii) the evolution of the system thereafter is non-linear, and (iii) the system response is different for rising or falling water level (hysteresis). There is no unifying model for these effects, largely due to the lack of data to test competing hypotheses.  Here we will (a) use real-time monitoring to test the science of bedload mobility and (b) develop a new capacity to enable operational responses to evolving threats.

Blog Posts

Project Team

Calum Cuthill (PDRA): Low cost sensor development

Bronwyn Matthews (EPSRC PhD):

PI: Dr Mark Naylor (Edinburgh)

CoI: Prof Hugh Sinclair (Edinburgh)

CoI Dr Andrew Black (Dundee)

CoI: Dr Richard Williams

CoI: Dr Wouter Buyaert

Project Partner Micha Dietze

Project Partner: Prof Karen Main

Funding

PI (£220k) 2020-2222 Sounding out the river: a new system for monitoring bedload mobilisation and transportation (NERC Digital Environment call, with 20%FEC)  This is a cross-disciplinary project I submitted with Glasgow, Dundee, Imperial College and SEPA to monitor bedload transport on the River Feshie.

CoI 2020 £36k PI Sinclair Edinburgh GCRF Fund: Monitoring and awareness of the role of river sediment in flood protection in Nepal

References

[1] Ryan, et al. (2002) Defining phases of bedload transport using piecewise regression, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 27.

[2] Sinha et al (2013), Exploring the channel connectivity structure of the August 2008 avulsion belt of the Kosi River, India: Application to flood risk assessment, Geology, 41(10).

[3] Lamb et al (2017) Vulnerability of bridges to scour: insights from an international expert elicitation workshop, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17.

[4] Slater, Singer & Kirchner (2015) Hydrologic versus geomorphic drivers of trends in flood hazard, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42.

 

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