Bedform segregation and locking increase storage of natural and synthetic particles in rivers

J. Dallmann, C. B. Phillips, Y. Teitelbaum, Edwin Y. Saavedra Cifuentes, N. Sund, R. Schumer, S. Arnon, A. I. Packman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the ecological significance of hyporheic exchange and fine particle transport in rivers is well established, these processes are generally considered irrelevant to riverbed morphodynamics. We show that coupling between hyporheic exchange, suspended sediment deposition, and sand bedform motion strongly modulates morphodynamics and sorts bed sediments. Hyporheic exchange focuses fine-particle deposition within and below mobile bedforms, which suppresses bed mobility. However, deposited fines are also remobilized by bedform motion, providing a mechanism for segregating coarse and fine particles in the bed. Surprisingly, two distinct end states emerge from the competing interplay of bed stabilization and remobilization: a locked state in which fine particle deposition completely stabilizes the bed, and a dynamic equilibrium in which frequent remobilization sorts the bed and restores mobility. These findings demonstrate the significance of hyporheic exchange to riverbed morphodynamics and clarify how dynamic interactions between coarse and fine particles produce sedimentary patterns commonly found in rivers.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7315
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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