Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Cover effect in bedrock abrasion: A new derivation and its implications for the modeling of bedrock channel morphology

Abstract : The sediment load of a bedrock river plays an important role in the fluvial incision process by providing tools for abrasion (the tools effect) and by covering and thereby protecting the bed (the cover effect). We derive a new formulation for the cover effect, in which the fraction of exposed bed area falls exponentially with increasing sediment flux or decreasing transport capacity, and explore its consequences for the model of bedrock abrasion by saltating bed load. Erosion rates predicted by the model are higher than those predicted by earlier models. In a closed system, the maximum erosion rate is predicted to occur when sediment supply is equal to transport capacity for a flat bed. By optimizing the channel geometry to minimize the potential energy of the stream and using representative values for both discharge and grain size, we derive equations for the geometry of a bedrock river and explore how predictions for width, slope, and bed cover vary as functions of drainage area, rock uplift rate, and rock strength. The equations predict a dependence of channel width on drainage area similar to the relations using a simple shear stress incision law. The slope-area relationship is predicted to be concave up in a log-log regime, with a curvature dependent on uplift rate. However, this curvature does not deviate sufficiently from a straight line to allow discrimination between models using empirical data. Dependence of channel width and slope on rock uplift rate can be separated into two domains: for low uplift rates, channel geometry is largely insensitive to uplift rate due to a threshold effect. At high uplift rates, there is a power law dependence. Bed cover is predicted to increase progressively downstream and to increase with increasing uplift rate. In our model, the width-to-depth ratio is a function of both tectonic and climatic forcing. This indicates that the scaling between channel width and bed slope is neither a unique indicator of tectonic forcing at steady state nor a signature of transience or steady state. We conclude that sediment effects need to be taken into account when modeling bedrock channel morphology.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadatas

Cited literature [52 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 1:03:51 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 11:42:34 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, November 14, 2016 - 9:05:37 AM


Publisher files allowed on an open archive




Jens Turowski, Dimitri Lague, Niels Hovius. Cover effect in bedrock abrasion: A new derivation and its implications for the modeling of bedrock channel morphology. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, American Geophysical Union/Wiley, 2007, 112 (F4), pp.F04006. ⟨10.1029/2006JF000697⟩. ⟨insu-00260761⟩



Record views


Files downloads