Headwater peatland channels in south-eastern Australia; the attainment of equilibrium



Publication Details

Nanson, R. A. & Cohen, T. J. (2014). Headwater peatland channels in south-eastern Australia; the attainment of equilibrium. Geomorphology, 212 72-83.


Many small headwater catchments (< 50 km2) in temperate south-eastern Australia store sediment in valley fills. While accumulation in some of these systems commenced up to 30,000 years ago, most did not commence filling with peat or clastic material until at least the mid Holocene. In such headwater settings, many clastic valley fills develop cut-and-fill channels, which contrast to some peatland settings where sinuous equilibrium channels have evolved. Four peatland systems within this dataset demonstrate stable channel systems which span nearly the full spectrum of observed valley-floor slopes. We assess new and published longitudinal data from these four channels and demonstrate that each of these channels has achieved equilibrium profiles. New and published flow and survey data are synthesised to demonstrate how these peatland systems have attained equilibrium. Low rates of sediment supply and exceptionally high bank strengths have resulted in low width to depth ratios which accommodate rapid changes in flow velocity and depth with changes in discharge. In small peatland channels, planform adjustments have been sufficient to counter the energy provided by these hydraulically efficient cross-sections and have enabled the achievement of regime energy-slopes. In larger and higher energy peatland channels, large, armoured, stable, bedforms have developed. These bedforms integrate with planform adjustments to maintain a condition of minimum variance in energy losses as represented by the slope profiles and, therefore, a uniform increase in downstream entropy.

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