The role of biophysical cohesion on subaqueous bed form size

Daniel R. Parsons, Robert J. Schindler, Julie A. Hope, Jonathan Malarkey, Jaco H. Baas, Jeffrey Peakall, Andrew J. Manning, Leiping Ye, Steve Simmons, David M. Paterson, Rebecca J. Aspden, Sarah J. Bass, Alan G. Davies, Ian D. Lichtman, Peter D. Thorne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Biologically active, fine-grained sediment forms abundant sedimentary deposits on Earth's surface, and mixed mud-sand dominates many coasts, deltas, and estuaries. Our predictions of sediment transport and bed roughness in these environments presently rely on empirically based bed form predictors that are based exclusively on biologically inactive cohesionless silt, sand, and gravel. This approach underpins many paleoenvironmental reconstructions of sedimentary successions, which rely on analysis of cross-stratification and bounding surfaces produced by migrating bed forms. Here we present controlled laboratory experiments that identify and quantify the influence of physical and biological cohesion on equilibrium bed form morphology. The results show the profound influence of biological cohesion on bed form size and identify how cohesive bonding mechanisms in different sediment mixtures govern the relationships. The findings highlight that existing bed form predictors require reformulation for combined biophysical cohesive effects in order to improve morphodynamic model predictions and to enhance the interpretations of these environments in the geological record.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
VolumeEarly View
Early online date28 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2016


  • Geomorphology: general
  • Sediment transport
  • Sediment
  • Bed forms
  • Cohesivity
  • Roughness
  • Biophysical


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