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Universal relation with regime transition for sediment transport in fine-grained rivers

Ma, Hongbo and Nittrouer, Jeffrey A. and Wu, Baosheng and Lamb, Michael P. and Zhang, Yuanfeng and Mohrig, David and Fu, Xudong and Naito, Kensuke and Wang, Yuanjian and Moodie, Andrew J. and Wang, Guangqian and Hu, Chunhong and Parker, Gary (2020) Universal relation with regime transition for sediment transport in fine-grained rivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117 (1). pp. 171-176. ISSN 0027-8424. PMCID PMC6955285. doi:10.1073/pnas.1911225116.

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Fine-grained sediment (grain size under 2,000 μm) builds floodplains and deltas, and shapes the coastlines where much of humanity lives. However, a universal, physically based predictor of sediment flux for fine-grained rivers remains to be developed. Herein, a comprehensive sediment load database for fine-grained channels, ranging from small experimental flumes to megarivers, is used to find a predictive algorithm. Two distinct transport regimes emerge, separated by a discontinuous transition for median bed grain size within the very fine sand range (81 to 154 μm), whereby sediment flux decreases by up to 100-fold for coarser sand-bedded rivers compared to river with silt and very fine sand beds. Evidence suggests that the discontinuous change in sediment load originates from a transition of transport mode between mixed suspended bed load transport and suspension-dominated transport. Events that alter bed sediment size near the transition may significantly affect fluviocoastal morphology by drastically changing sediment flux, as shown by data from the Yellow River, China, which, over time, transitioned back and forth 3 times between states of high and low transport efficiency in response to anthropic activities.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information CentralArticle
Ma, Hongbo0000-0002-6017-8113
Nittrouer, Jeffrey A.0000-0002-4762-0157
Wu, Baosheng0000-0002-7149-0276
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Zhang, Yuanfeng0000-0003-1966-0108
Mohrig, David0000-0003-1828-4526
Fu, Xudong0000-0003-0744-0546
Naito, Kensuke0000-0001-8683-0846
Wang, Yuanjian0000-0003-0831-4293
Moodie, Andrew J.0000-0002-6745-036X
Wang, Guangqian0000-0002-5939-9138
Hu, Chunhong0000-0002-8753-9740
Parker, Gary0000-0001-5973-5296
Additional Information:© 2019 The Author(s). Published under the PNAS license. Contributed by Gary Parker, October 31, 2019 (sent for review July 1, 2019; reviewed by Ton Hoitink and Heidi Nepf) We thank the reviewers of this paper for their constructive comments. H.M., J.A.N., M.P.L., K.N., A.J.M., and G.P. gratefully acknowledge the NSF of the United States for support through Division of Earth Science (EAR) Grant 1427262. B.W. acknowledges support from the National Key R&D Program of China through Grant 2017YFC0405202. X.F. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) through Grants 51525901 and 91747207. Y.Z. acknowledges support from NSFC through Grant 51379087. Y.W. acknowledges support from NSFC through Grants 51539004, 51679104, and 51509102. A.J.M. acknowledges support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant 145068. H.M. acknowledges the financial support from the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Rice University. Data compiled for this study have been deposited on the online data archive figshare (DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.10060241). Author contributions: H.M., J.A.N., and G.P. designed research; H.M., J.A.N., B.W., Y.Z., D.M., X.F., K.N., Y.W., A.J.M., G.W., and C.H. performed research; H.M. and X.F. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; H.M., M.P.L., and G.P. analyzed data; and H.M., J.A.N., M.P.L., and G.P. wrote the paper. Reviewers: T.H., Wageningen University & Research; and H.N., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The authors declare no competing interest. This article contains supporting information online at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Key Research and Development Program of China2017YFC0405202
National Natural Science Foundation of China51525901
National Natural Science Foundation of China91747207
National Natural Science Foundation of China51379087
National Natural Science Foundation of China51539004
National Natural Science Foundation of China51679104
National Natural Science Foundation of China51509102
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-145068
Rice UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:sediment transport | fine-grained environments | regime transition | critical suspension number | universality
Issue or Number:1
PubMed Central ID:PMC6955285
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20191219-112735552
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Universal relation with regime transition for sediment transport in fine-grained rivers. Hongbo Ma, Jeffrey A. Nittrouer, Baosheng Wu, Michael P. Lamb, Yuanfeng Zhang, David Mohrig, Xudong Fu, Kensuke Naito, Yuanjian Wang, Andrew J. Moodie, Guangqian Wang, Chunhong Hu, Gary Parker. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan 2020, 117 (1) 171-176; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1911225116
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100381
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:20 Dec 2019 15:59
Last Modified:15 Feb 2022 20:14

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