Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Research article
01 Dec 2011
Research article |  | 01 Dec 2011

A structure generator for modelling the initial sediment distribution of an artificial hydrologic catchment

T. Maurer, A. Schneider, and H. H. Gerke

Abstract. Artificially-created hydrological catchments are characterised by sediment structures from technological construction processes that can potentially be important for modelling of flow and transport and for understanding initial soil and ecosystem development. The subsurface spatial structures of such catchments have not yet been sufficiently explored and described. Our objective was to develop a structure generator programme for modelling the 3-D spatial distribution patterns of dumped sediments depending on the technical earth-moving and deposition processes. We are focussing in a first step on integrating sediment dumping, particle size, and bulk density modification processes on the catchment scale. For the model development, the artificially-constructed hydrological catchment "Chicken Creek" located in Lower Lusatia, Germany, served as an example. The structure generator describes 3-D technological sediment distributions at two scales: (i) for a 2-D-vertical cross-section, texture and bulk density distributions are generated within individual spoil cones that result from mass dumping, particle segregation, and compaction and (ii) for the whole catchment, the spoil cones are horizontally arranged along trajectories of mass dumping controlled by the belt stacker-machine relative to the catchment's clay layer topography. The generated 3-D texture and bulk density distributions are interpolated and visualised as a gridded 3-D-volume body using 3-D computer-aided design software. The generated subsurface sediment distribution for the Chicken Creek catchment was found to correspond to observed patterns already without calibration. Spatial aggregation and interpolation in the gridded volume body modified the generated distributions towards more uniform (unimodal) distributions and lower values of the standard deviations. The modelling approach is generally applicable to all situations where large masses of unconsolidated sediment are moved and dumped thereby allowing generation of basic soil structures and patterns of hydrological systems.