Historical and Contemporary Drivers of Knickpoint Retreat and Morphological Evolution Along Bayou Pierre, Mississippi

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Geography and Geology


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Channel incision in rivers can cause marked ecological and economic damages. This phenomenon is abundant and generally well documented along impacted streams in the loess hills adjacent to the Lower Mississippi River valley. Bayou Pierre, an ecologically important small tributary of the Mississippi River, is currently incising but causes are not well understood. In this study, we examine diverse data sources to: (1) reconstruct a history of erosional stimuli and possible origins and (2) examine effects of contemporary controls. Review of long-term planform and land use data for the Mississippi River revealed episodic foreshortening events followed by episodic deforestation and reforestation. Hydrologic data suggest an increase in rainfall over the last few decades. Estimates of knickpoint retreat place origins prior to Mississippi River channel straightening (1929–1944). Planform analysis in three focal reaches of Bayou Pierre demonstrates slow change prior to 1982, but accelerated changes after those periods. Mean rainfall and 3-day storm intensity correlate to some planform changes; however, the storm of 1983 may be a better explanation of sudden planform change. We found some evidence of potential internal feedback loops in patterns of bar growth. Together, our analyses provide a synthesis of stimuli experienced by Bayou Pierre over the last ~200 years and suggest both channel migration events before straightening of the Mississippi River and more recent hydrologic events have influenced patterns of geomorphic change in Bayou Pierre.

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River Research and Applications

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