Strong seasonality in sand loading and resulting feedbacks on sediment transport, bed texture, and channel planform at Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

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Declining sand inputs to a channel with bimodal bed sediment can lead to degradation, armoring, and reduced bedload transport rates. Where sand loading is episodic, channels may alternate between high-sand and low-sand conditions, with ensuing responses in bed texture and bedload transport rates. The effects of episodic sand loading are explored through flow, grain size, and bedload transport measurements on the Pasig-Potrero River, a sediment-rich channel draining Mount Pinatubo, Philippines. Sand loading on the Pasig-Potrero River is highly seasonal, and channel adjustments between seasons are dramatic. In the rainy season, inputs from sand-rich 1991 eruption deposits lead to active, sand-bedded, braided channels. In the dry season, many precipitation-driven sand sources are cut off, leading to incision, armoring, and significantly lower bedload transport rates. This seasonal transition offers an excellent opportunity to examine models of degradation, incision, and armoring as well as the effectiveness of sediment transport models that explicitly encapsulate the importance of sand on transport rates. During the fall 2009 seasonal transition, 7·6 km of channel incised and armored, carving a 2-3 m deep channel on the upper alluvial fan. Bedload transport rates measured in the August 2009 rainy season were over four orders of magnitude greater than gravel-bedded dry-season channels surveyed in January 2010, despite having similar shear stress and unit discharge conditions. Within dry-season incised channels, bed armoring is rapid, leading to an abrupt gravel-sand transition. Bedload transport rates adjust more slowly, creating a lag between armoring and commensurate reductions in transport. Seasonal channel incision occurred in steps, aided by lateral migration into sand-rich banks. These lateral sand inputs may increase armor layer mobility, renewing incision, and forming terraces within the incised seasonal channel. The seasonal incised channel is currently being reset by precipitation-driven sand loading during the next rainy season, and the cycle begins again.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1012-1022
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Degradation
  • Gravel-sand transition
  • Mount Pinatubo
  • Sand loading
  • Sediment transport


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