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«A thesis presented to the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences of Ohio University In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ...»

Effects of Channel Network Geometries on Incision Processes and Channel Hydraulics in

Bedrock Streams

A thesis presented to

the faculty of

the College of Arts and Sciences of Ohio University

In partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree

Master of Science

Samuel J. Plitzuweit

June 2009

© 2009 Samuel J. Plitzuweit. All Rights Reserved.

This thesis titled

Effects of Channel Network Geometries on Incision Processes and Channel Hydraulics in

Bedrock Streams



has been approved for the Department of Geological Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences by Gregory S. Springer Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences Benjamin M. Ogles Dean, College of Arts and Sciences


PLITZUWEIT, SAMUEL J., M.S., June 2009, Geological Sciences Effects of Channel Network Geometries on Incision Processes and Channel Hydraulics in Bedrock Streams (114 pp.) Director of Thesis: Gregory S. Springer The effects of basin hydrology on channel incision and hydraulic adjustments in mountain streams were studied using field data and models of watershed hydrology and channel hydraulics. Conventional theories predict similar channel geometries and hydraulics in the Cherry and Cranberry Rivers because they are adjacent and have similar geologies, climates, and hillslope processes. Unlike the Cherry River, the Cranberry does not conform to traditional ideas about bedrock river incision, which may be explained by its unusual trellis-like, highly elongated watershed morphology. Abrasion is the ratelimiting incision mechanism in the Cranberry because its trellis-like channel network geometry (CNG) causes hydrograph attenuation and comparatively low peak discharges;

whereas, the dendritic Cherry River CNG favors plucking due to peaked hydrographs.

Restricted flows in the Cranberry River cause downstream fining atop highly resistant sandstones, which maximizes abrasion potentials at the expense of competence.

Approved: _____________________________________________________________

Gregory S. Springer Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences

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I need to acknowledge many people for assisting in my graduate school endeavors. Most importantly, I would like to thank my ever-patient advisor, Dr. Gregory Springer. He provided me the necessary tools to become a successful student and writer. I would like to thank him for giving me financial support and academic guidance over the past two years. I am also deeply indebted to the Department of Geological Sciences at Ohio University for additional financial support. Next, I thank all of my friends for helping me with fieldwork during the summer months: Megan Smith, Alexander Smith, Jessie Truchan, and Matt Borchert. They all worked exceptionally hard, and helped me enjoy beautiful mountain streams. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for teaching me the importance of work ethics.

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List of Tables

List of Figures

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Theoretical Background

2.1 Channel Network Geometry and Basin Hydrology

2.2 Longitudinal Profiles

2.3 Hydraulic Geometry

2.4 Incision Processes

2.5 Chapter Summary

3.0 Research Objectives and questions

3.1 Objective Statement

3.2 Research Questions

3.3 Evaluations

4.0 Field Location

4.1 Regional Geology

4.2 Site Selection Criteria

4.3 Watershed Descriptions

4.4 Bedrock Reach Locations

5.0 Methods

5.1 Field Based Data Collection

5.2 Computer Generated Data

6.0 Field Based Results

6.1 Comparisons of River Cross Sections

6.2 Incision Processes

6.3 Hydraulic Geometry

6.4 Shear Stress and Unit Stream Power

6.5 Chapter Summary

7.0 Modeling Results

7.1 Geomorphic Instantaneous Unit Hydrographs

7.2 HEC-RAS Hydraulic Modeling

7.3 Chapter Summary

8.0 Discussion

8.1 Channel Network Geometry and Hydrological Response

8.2 Channel Network Geometry and Incision Processes

8.3 Channel Network and Hydraulic Geometries

8.4 Implications for Past and Present Research

9.0 Conclusions


Appendix A: Drainage Basin Characterization

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Table 4.1: Basin Statistics

Table 4.2: Site Location Statistics for Model Reaches

Table 6.1: Empirical Coefficients for the Cherry River

Table 6.2: Empirical Coefficients for the Cranberry River

Table 7.1: Hydrology Statistics for Model Reaches

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Figure 1.1: CNGs and Hydrographs

Figure 1.2: Energy Thresholds

Figure 2.1: Abraded Bedforms

Figure 2.2: Plucking Bedforms

Figure 4.1: Regional Geology

Figure 4.2: Longitudinal Profiles of Study Rivers

Figure 4.3: CNGs of Study Rivers

Figure 4.4: Previous Site Locations

Figure 4.5: Site Locations for Hydraulic Models

Figure 4.6: Base Map for Richwood, WV

Figure 5.1: Surveying Equipment

Figure 5.2: Area-distance Functions and GIUHs

Figure 5.3: Methods Flow Diagram

Figure 6.1: Comparison of River Cross-sections

Figure 6.2: Cherry River Incision Processes

Figure 6.3: Cranberry River Incision Processes

Figure 6.4: Drainage Area versus Width Plots

Figure 6.5: Drainage Area versus Depth Plots

Figure 6.6: Drainage Area versus Width-to-depth Ratio Plots

Figure 6.7: Drainage Area versus Hydraulic Radius Plots

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Courtesy Dr. G.S. Springer, Ohio University

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