Holocene Postglacial Fluvial Processes and Landforms in Low Relief Landscapes
Phillips, Zachary Rockford
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Postglacial rivers are part of the relatively young low-relief landscape system left behind by glaciers. Over time, postglacial rivers are susceptible to both minor and major channel planform changes as the Earth and its newly exposed rivers adjust to new isostatic and geomorphic equilibriums. Those planform changes result in topographic features that are well preserved among the largely unaltered landscape and offer opportunities to learn about the processes that create them. This work focuses on those minor and major planform changes and the resulting landforms, with a focus on processes effecting the glaciolacustrine Red River Valley. Here, three studies were conducted, two regarding minor planform changes and one focusing on major planform changes. Studies included in this work regard 1) the spatial distribution of meander cutoffs and meander cutoff relief on the Red River, 2), avulsion timing and length resulting from isostatic tilting and 3) mobile river ice and bank interaction frequency, locations, and erosion in meandering rivers. Results show that rivers develop meander cutoffs that faster in areas where geologic materials are more easily eroded and their relief shows a positive relationship with the rate of river incision. Major channel path changes (avulsions) in the presence of isostatic tilting were found to be most frequent soon after river establishment while rates of isostatic rebound are high enough to outpace channel incision. River ice was found to most frequently interact with the outer banks of channels with long, tight bends and high sinuosity, potentially contributing to the meandering process. From these results it can be interpreted that postglacial rivers were highly dynamic early in their history and have stabilized over time, with most of the changes occurring in areas with more erodible alluvium. Presently, rivers undergo most of their changes during the spring thaw when mobile river ice is impacting the banks, with sinuous river reaches impacted most frequently by mobile river ice.