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Quantifying the signature of sediment composition on the topologic and dynamic complexity of river delta channel networks and inferences toward delta classification
Edmonds, Douglas A.
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Deltas contain complex self-organizing channel networks that nourish the surface with sediment and nutrients. Developing a quantitative understanding of how controlling physical mechanisms of delta formation relate to the channel networks they imprint on the landscape remains an open problem, hindering further progress on quantitative delta classification and understanding process from form. Here we isolate the effect of sediment composition on network structure by analyzing Delft3D river-dominated deltas within the recently introduced graph-theoretic framework for quantifying complexity of delta channel networks. We demonstrate that deltas with coarser incoming sediment tend to be more complex topologically (increased number of pathways) but simpler dynamically (reduced flux exchange between subnetworks) and that once a morphodynamic steady state is reached, complexity also achieves a steady state. By positioning simulated deltas on the so-called TopoDynamic complexity space and comparing with field deltas, we propose a quantitative framework for exploring complexity toward systematic inference and classification.