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Water Resources Research





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Twenty-eight coupled observations of flow, transport, and bed surface grain size distribution were made in a laboratory flume using a wide range of flows and a sediment with a very poorly sorted, bimodal grain size distribution. These observations permit the transport rates of individual size fractions to be scaled by the proportion of each size immediately available for transport on the bed surface. The key to our observations is the use of a sediment in which each size fraction has been painted a different color, which permits reliable, repeatable, and nondestructive measurement of the bed surface grain size distribution from photographs of the bed surface. At a given flow, the fractional transport rates may be divided into two parts: a finer-grained portion within which fractional transport rates are a function only of their proportion on the bed surface and total transport rate, and a coarser-grained portion for which fractional transport rates also depend on the proportion of individual grains within a fraction that remain essentially immobile throughout the experimental run. We define the latter condition as one of partial transport and observe that the grain size separating partial and fully mobilized transport consistently increases with flow strength. Complete mobilization of a size fraction occurs at roughly twice the shear stress necessary for incipient motion ofthat fraction. Zones of partial and full mobility are quite distinct when fractional transport rates are scaled by the bed surface grain size distribution, although a region of partial transport is evident when these data and other experimental and field observations are scaled by the bulk grain size distribution of the sediment bed. Critical shear stresses for the incipient motion of individual fractions in our experimental sediment vary over an order of magnitude, a result strongly in contrast to many earlier observations, but consistent with our observations of incipient motion in sediments with bimodal grain size distributions.