Pool-riffle dynamics is governed by complex time and spatial interactions between water and sediment flows. In the last few decades, significant advances have been made in characterizing and modeling the hydrodynamics of pool-riffle sequences, and this information has been extensively used as the basis of conceptual models to describe or infer pool-riffle morphodynamics. A lot less attention, however, has been paid to the coupled dynamics of flow and sediment, which is essential to fully understand these complex geomorphic systems. This paper uses an unsteady 1-D flow-morphology and bed-sorting model to analyze pool-riffle dynamics. The model is first applied to a pool-riffle sequence on a 1.1 km reach of the lower Bear Creek, Arkansas, United States. After showing the model's ability to describe the general reach hydrodynamics and morphological evolution over 1 year, the detailed sediment and flow information is used to investigate pool-riffle dynamics in terms of self-maintenance mechanisms. Two effects that have been only marginally explored in the past, i.e., bed sediment sorting and downstream riffle control, are explained and quantified with the help of the model's outputs. The results show that self-maintenance occurs more frequently than previously thought as a result of grain sorting and that erosion or deposition of contiguous riffles also constitutes a self-maintenance mechanism. These findings provide the support for a physically based, integral description of pool-riffle morphodynamics and highlight the importance of flow and sediment variability on pool-riffle self-maintenance. The morphodynamic analysis bridges the gap between observations and current theories based mainly on hydrodynamic information.
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