Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Research article
23 May 2012
Research article |  | 23 May 2012

Measurement of spatial and temporal fine sediment dynamics in a small river

Y. Schindler Wildhaber, C. Michel, P. Burkhardt-Holm, D. Bänninger, and C. Alewell

Abstract. Empirical measurements on fine sediment dynamics and fine sediment infiltration and accumulation have been conducted worldwide, but it is difficult to compare the results because the applied methods differ widely. We compared common methods to capture temporal and spatial dynamics of suspended sediment (SS), fine sediment infiltration and accumulation and tested them for their suitability in a small, canalized river of the Swiss Plateau. Measurement suitability was assessed by data comparison, relation to hydrological data and in the context of previously published data. SS concentration and load were assessed by optical backscatter (OBS) sensors and SS samplers. The former exhibit a better temporal resolution, but were associated with calibration problems. Due to the relatively low cost and easy mounting of SS samplers, they can provide a higher spatial distribution in the river's cross section. The latter resulted in a better correlation between sediment infiltration and SS load assessed by SS samplers than SS concentrations measured with OBS sensors. Sediment infiltration baskets and bedload traps capture the temporal and spatial distribution of fine sediment infiltration. Data obtained by both methods were positively correlated with water level and SS. In contrast, accumulation baskets do not assess the temporal behaviour of fine sediment, but the net accumulation over a certain time period. Less fine sediment accumulated in upwelling zones and within areas of higher mean water level due to scouring of fine sediments. Even though SS and sediment infiltration assessed with the bedload traps increased from up- to downstream, less fine sediment accumulated downstream. This is probably also attributable to more scouring downstream.