Anabranching and maximum flow efficiency in Magela Creek, northern Australia

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Jansen, J.D. ; Nanson, G.C. (2004)

Anabranching is the prevailing river pattern found along alluvial tracts of the world's largest rivers. Hydraulic geometry and bed material discharge are compared between single channel and anabranching reaches up to 4 times bank-full discharge in Magela Creek, northern Australia. The anabranching channels exhibit greater sediment transporting capacity per unit available stream power, i.e., maximum flow efficiency (MFE). Simple flume experiments corroborate our field results showing the flow efficiency gains associated with anabranching, and highlight the prospect of a dominant anabranch, which is found in many anabranching rivers. These results demonstrate that anabranching can constitute a stable river pattern in dynamic equilibrium under circumstances in which a continuous single channel would be unable to maintain sediment conveyance. We propose the existence of a flow efficiency continuum that embraces dynamic equilibrium and disequilibrium (vertically accreting) anabranching rivers.
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