Cohesive Sediment Erodibility

A new method for in-situ measurement of the erosion threshold of river channels:

The vast majority of alluvial deposits have some degree of cohesion, typically due to the presence of clays and/or organic matter. Determining the threshold fluid shear stress τc necessary to entrain these sediments is essential for predicting erosion rates and morphodynamics of rivers, tidal channels, and coasts. Cohesive sediments present a greater challenge than non-cohesive sand and gravel beds due to the sensitivity of τc to such factors as compaction, aggregation and particle surface chemistry. All of those factors may be altered if bed and bank sediments are extracted for later analysis in the laboratory. Environments with mixed cohesive and non-cohesive materials are common, such as sand-bedded rivers with muddy banks; it is therefore desirable to have a method for in-situ measurement of τc across a very wide range. We present a novel instrument, provisionally called the “Mudbuster”, that is capable of reproducibly determining τc for submerged cohesive and non-cohesive sediments in-situ. The Mudbuster has several advantages over alternative methods, including ease of implementation in the field, and a fluid shear that is more representative of natural flows. The device incorporates common and low-cost components integrated with an Arduino micro-controller, which may receive commands from a mobile phone. We demonstrate our instrument’s capabilities in gravel, sand and clay-sand mixtures prepared in the laboratory, and present a proof-of-concept field deployment in a wadeable stream. Additionally, we provide the necessary schematics, parts lists, code and calibration procedures for the interested reader to build their own Mudbuster.


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