Coupling within Fluvial Geomorphic Systems:Spatial and Temporal Implications


Coupling within fluvial systems relates to the connectivity between the various components of the system. It can be viewed at several scales from local scales of hillslopetochannel and reachtoreach coupling, to larger scales of zonal coupling between the major functional zones of the fluvial system, and to the scale of regional coupling. Coupling influences how the system responds to environmental change and how the effects of environmental change are propagated through the system. This paper provides a review, based largely on previously published work, of the coupling concept, and how the effective temporal scales vary with the spatial scale of coupling. Local scale coupling is considered through the hillslope to channel coupling in the Howgill Fells, northwest England, observed over a 30year monitoring period, together with examples from badlands in Spain, and reachtoreach coupling on the River Dane, northwest England. At the zonal scale the relative influence of climatic and baselevel change on coupling through dryregion alluvial fans is considered on fan systems in Spain, Nevada, and UAE/Oman. For large scale regional coupling, the response of the Tabernas basin, southeast Spain to tectonic uplift, is examined. The factors influencing coupling mechanisms vary with temporal and spatial scales. At the hillslopetochannel scale the significant factors are the magnitude and frequency characteristics of sediment generation and removal mechanisms within the context of progressive morphological change. Effective timescales range from the individual event to decadal timescales. At the zonal scale, that of alluvial fans, the significant factors are climatic change, and particularly in the appropriate morphological setting, baselevel change. Effective timescales are of the order of hundreds to thousands of years. At the regional scale, the response to tectonic uplift may take >100 ka to be transmitted through the drainage basin.



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