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Journal Articles Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Year : 2019

Active channel width as a proxy of sediment supply from mining sites in New Caledonia

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Abstract

Although the channel morphology of upland fluvial systems is known to be strongly controlled by sediment supply from hillslopes, it is still difficult to isolate this effect from the other controlling factors of channel forms, such as the sediment transport capacity (depending notably on the size of the catchment) and local conditions (e.g. confinement, riparian vegetation, valley-floor slope). The rivers in New Caledonia offer an interesting field laboratory to isolate the morphological effect of contrasted sediment supply conditions. Some of these rivers are known to be highly impacted by the coarse sediment waves induced by the mining of nickel deposits that started in the early 1870s, which was particularly intensive between the 1940s and 1970s. The propagation of the sediment pulses from the mining sites can be traced by the presence of wide and aggraded active channels along the stream network of nickel-rich peridotite massifs. A first set of 63 undisturbed catchments in peridotite massifs distributed across the Grande Terre was used to fit a classic scaling law between active channel width and drainage area. A second set of 86 impacted sites, where the presence of sediment waves was clearly attested by recent aerial imagery, showed systematically wider active channels, with a width ratio around 5 (established from the intercept ratio of width-area power laws). More importantly, this second set of disturbed sites confirmed that the residual of active channel widths, computed from the scaling law of undisturbed sites, is statistically positively related to the catchment-scale relative area of major mining sediment sources. It is therefore confirmed that the characterization of sediment supply conditions is crucial for the understanding of spatial patterns of active channel width, and this should be more thoroughly considered in morphological studies of rivers draining environments with contrasted geomorphic activities on hillslopes.
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Dates and versions

hal-02610266 , version 1 (31-08-2022)

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M. Bertrand, Frédéric Liébault. Active channel width as a proxy of sediment supply from mining sites in New Caledonia. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 2019, 44 (1), pp.67-76. ⟨10.1002/esp.4478⟩. ⟨hal-02610266⟩
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