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Influence of Boulders on Channel Width and Slope: Field Data and Theory
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  • Ron Nativ,
  • Jens Martin Turowski,
  • Liran Goren,
  • Jonathan B Laronne,
  • J. Bruce H. Shyu
Ron Nativ
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jens Martin Turowski
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam
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Liran Goren
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
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Jonathan B Laronne
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
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J. Bruce H. Shyu
National Taiwan University, National Taiwan University
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Large boulders with a diameter of up to several tens of meters are globally observed in mountainous bedrock channel environments. Recent theories suggest that high concentrations of boulders are associated with changes in channel morphology. However, data are scarce and ambiguous, and process-related studies are limited. Here we present data from the Liwu River, Taiwan, showing that channel width and slope increase with boulder concentration. We apply two mass balance principles of bedrock erosion and sediment transport and develop a theory to explain the steepening and widening trends. Five mechanisms are considered and compared to the field data. The cover effect by immobile boulders is found to have no influence on channel width. Channel width can partially be explained by boulder control on the tools effect and on the partitioning of the flow shear stress. However, none of the mechanisms we explored can adequately explain the scattered width data, potentially indicating a long-timescale adjustment of channel width to boulder input. Steepening can be best described by assuming a reduction of sediment transport efficiency with boulder concentration. We find that boulders represent a significant perturbation to the fluvial landscape. Channels tend to adjust to this perturbation leading to a new morphology that differs from boulder-free channels. The general approach presented here can be further expanded to explore the role of other boulder-related processes.