Alteration of gravel-bed river morphodynamics in response to multiple anthropogenic disturbances: Insights from the sediment-starved Parma River (northern Italy)

Brenna, Andrea, Surian, Nicola and Mao, Luca (2021) Alteration of gravel-bed river morphodynamics in response to multiple anthropogenic disturbances: Insights from the sediment-starved Parma River (northern Italy). Geomorphology . ISSN 0169-555X

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2021.107845

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Alteration of gravel-bed river morphodynamics in response to multiple anthropogenic disturbances: Insights from the sediment-starved Parma River (northern Italy)
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Abstract

The alteration of sediment transport regime represents one of the key factors controlling the response of fluvial systems to human impacts. Additional research efforts are required to define sound cause-effect relationships between the human pressures and the morphodynamic responses of sediment-starved gravel-bed rivers. This work deals with the evolution of the Parma River, a large Italian gravel-bed river affected over the last 160 yr by multiple anthropogenic disturbances (i.e., land-use changes, in-channel mining and, more recently, the construction of a detention basin), which strongly limited the sediment availability to the high-plain portion of its course. The data collected allowed us to reconstruct the history of the impacts, the river morphological evolutionary trajectory, the sedimentological characteristics of the bed, and to estimate, leveraging a morphological approach, the variation in coarse sediment regime over the most recent period. After the cessation of intense in-channel mining in 1990s, the study sector located upstream from the detention basin shifted from a degrading (i.e., narrowing and incising) to a recovery phase, characterized by a mean coarse transport of 15,000–31,000 m3yr−1. These results demonstrate that the in-channel mining was the most impactful historical pressure acting on the river, and that a channel preserving some natural characteristics and passing from a condition of sediment-starvation to one of increasing sediment availability can recover an active morphodynamics within a short time period. The downstream sector was greatly affected by the reduction of sediment transfer that occurred in the 2000s caused by the construction of a detention basin. Its degradation continued over the most recent period and the coarse transport is currently very low (up to about 3000 m3yr−1 4 km downstream from the basin). This sector is characterized at the present by a morphodynamics defined as “slack”, a condition induced by the complete evacuation of the mobile channel sediments, leading to extremely low bed material mobility and transport, and, consequently, to morphological degradation up to the achievement of a new quasi-equilibrium. We hypothesized that such an extreme state of alteration is relatively limited in space, affecting a gravel-bed river only at the reach scale in response to multiple overlapped impacts or because of an extremely severe perturbation (i.e., reduction) of the sediment availability and dynamics.

Keywords:Coarse sediment transport, Streambed characteristics, Evolutionary trajectory, Sediment mining, Detention basin
Subjects:F Physical Sciences > F820 Geomorphology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Geography
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ID Code:45602
Deposited On:07 Jul 2021 11:59

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