US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Geomorphology 100 (2008) 256–268; doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2007.12.008


Floodplains provide valuable social and ecological functions, and understanding the rates and patterns of overbank sedimentation is critical for river basin management and rehabilitation. Channelization of alluvial systems throughout the world has altered hydrological and sedimentation processes within floodplain ecosystems. In the loess belt region of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley of the United States, channelization, the geology of the region, and past land-use practices have resulted in the formation of dozens of valley plugs in stream channels and the formation of shoals at the confluence of stream systems. Valley plugs completely block stream channels with sediment and debris and can result in greater deposition rates on floodplain surfaces. Presently, however, information is lacking on the rates and variability of overbank sedimentation associated with valley plugs and shoals.

We quantified deposition rates and textures in floodplains along channelized streams that contained valley plugs and shoals, in addition to floodplains occurring along an unchannelized stream, to improve our understanding of overbank sedimentation associated with channelized streams. Feldspar clay marker horizons and marker poles were used to measure floodplain deposition from 2002 to 2005 and data were analyzed with geospatial statistics to determine the spatial dynamics of sedimentation within the floodplains.

Mean sediment deposition rates ranged from 0.09 to 0.67 cm/y at unchannelized sites, 0.16 to 2.27 cm/y at shoal sites, and 3.44 to 6.20 cm/y at valley plug sites. Valley plug sites had greater rates of deposition, and the deposited sediments contained more coarse sand material than either shoal or unchannelized sites. A total of 59 of 183 valley plug study plots had mean deposition rates >5 cm/y. The geospatial analyses showed that the spatial dynamics of sedimentation can be influenced by the formation of valley plugs and shoals on channelized streams; however, responses can vary. Restoration efforts in the region need to have basinwide collaboration with landowners and address catchment-scale processes, including the geomorphic instability of the region, to be successful.