Inconsistent Grain Roundness and Sphericity Trends and the Valley Wall Influx Factor: Between Alpine Source and Lake Shore, SE France

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Abstract

The greatest change in particle roundness, sphericity, and size in most fluvial systems generally occurs in the initial first few kilometers of sediment transport. Observations in natural settings and laboratory experiments have shown that changes, such as increased grain rounding and decreased size due to particle breakage, wear, and attrition, tend to be progressive along the dispersal path.

In marked contrast, this study records highly variable and poorly developed particle-texture trends downslope along short (<5 km) channels that extend directly from a high-relief carbonate source area down to the shore of Lake Annecy in the western Alps, SE France. The observed inconsistent patterns are measured in both a region-wide analysis using all collected samples and also in a more specific survey of samples in six different channels incised on the steep, topographically irregular mountain flanks that border the lake.

The major factor responsible for the irregular downslope patterns of roundness, sphericity, and size in the Annecy study area is the lateral introduction of sediment into the fluvial channels along dispersal paths. Episodic failure of mechanically unstable sediments and their transport down steep valley walls bring less-abraded sediment of variable shape and size along the dispersal paths. The valley wall sediment influx factor warrants further examination to better interpret sedimentation processes in dissected, high-gradient terrains that border coastal areas.

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