Effects of spatial constraints on channel network topology: implications for geomorphological inference
Cabral, Mariza Castanheira de Moura da Costa
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In the fifty-two years since Robert Horton's 1945 pioneering quantitative description of channel network planform (or plan view morphology), no conclusive findings have been presented that permit inference of geomorphological processes from any measures of network planform. All measures of network planform studied exhibit limited geographic variability across different environments. Horton (1945), Langbein et al. (1947), Schumm (1956), Hack (1957), Melton (1958), and Gray (1961) established various "laws" of network planform, that is, statistical relationships between different variables which have limited variability. A wide variety of models which have been proposed to simulate the growth of channel networks in time over a landsurface are generally also in agreement with the above planform laws.An explanation is proposed for the generality of the channel network planform laws. Channel networks must be space filling, that is, they must extend over the landscape to drain every hillslope, leaving no large undrained areas, and with no crossing of channels, often achieving a roughly uniform drainage density in a given environment. It is shown that the space-filling constraint can reduce the sensitivity of planform variables to different network growth models, and it is proposed that this constraint may determine the planform laws.The "Q model" of network growth of Van Pelt and Verwer (1985) is used to generate samples of networks. Sensitivity to the model parameter Q is markedly reduced when the networks generated are required to be space filling. For a wide variety of Q values, the space-filling networks are in approximate agreement with the various channel network planform laws. Additional constraints, including of energy efficiency, were not studied but may further reduce the variability of planform laws.Inference of model parameter Q from network topology is successful only in networks not subject to spatial constraints. In space-filling networks, for a wide range of Q values, the maximal-likelihood Q parameter value is generally in the vicinity of 1/2, which yields topological randomness. It is proposed that space filling originates the appearance of randomness in channel network topology, and may cause difficulties to geomorphological inference from network planform.
- Civil engineering