Geological controls on the formation of alluvial meanders and floodplain wetlands: the example of the Klip River, eastern Free State, South Africa

S. Tooth, T. S. McCarthy, T. Brandt, P. J. Hancox, R. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Floodplain wetlands are common features of rivers in southern Africa, but they have been little studied from a geological or geomorphological perspective. Study of the upper Klip River, eastern Free State, South Africa, indicates strong geological controls on the formation of alluvial meanders and associated floodplain wetlands. Along this river, pronounced and abrupt changes in valley width are strongly linked to lithological variations. Where weakly cemented sandstone crops out, the Klip has laterally eroded bedrock and carved valleys up to 1500 m wide. In these valleys, the river meanders (sinuosity up to similar to1.75) on moderate gradients (0.003), the river follows a much straighter course (sinuosity similar to1.10-1.34), and floodplains are restricted in width. Long-term landscape development in the Klip and numerous similar catchments depends on the interaction between fluvial processes in the sandstone and dolerite valleys. In the sandstone valleys, vertical erosion rates are controlled by erosion rates of the more resistant dolerites downstream. Hence, in the short- to medium-term (decades to tens of thousands of years), lateral erosion dominates over vertical erosion, with the river concomitantly planing sandstone in the channel floor and reworking floodplain sediments. The thickness of alluvial fill in the sandstone valleys is limited (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-815
Number of pages19
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Volume27
Issue number8
Early online date24 Jun 2002
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002

Keywords

  • floddplain
  • local base level
  • meanders
  • rock hardness
  • wetlands

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