The interaction between flow, sediment transport, and channel morphology is very poorly known for bedrock rivers. A key foci for channel change in such rivers is the bed step. Despite their prevalence, the role of bed steps on river flow mechanics, sediment transport, channel change, and basin evolution has been hardly investigated at all, primarily because of adverse site conditions that previously limited field data collection. The overall goal of this line of research has been to overcome past constraints on investigating the fluid mechanics in the vicinity of waterfalls of all sizes and its relevance to fluvial geomorphology. This is being done with the aid of new technologies that enable precise in situ measurement for the first time. New technologies developed and tested at UC Davis include a patented River Truss system, an air content sensor for studying the hydraulic jump at the base of falls, a 3D force sensor, and differential pressure transducers with high-frequency response. These new technologies are being used to address hypotheses regarding bedrock river morphology, universal waterfalls systematics, the dynamics associated with individual types of bed steps. A better understanding of the role of waterfalls in channel change is very important to science because it would improve the physics of landscape evolution models, provide needed guidance for including in-stream features in river restoration, and make interdisciplinary contributions to ecology and aquatic geochemistry. In future research, other scientists will be able to apply the newly proven field technologies and resulting models to better understand the complex flow mechanics and channels interactions occurring in mountain rivers.
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