An index concentration method for suspended load monitoring in large rivers of the Amazonian foreland
Because increasing climatic variability and anthropic pressures have affected the sediment dynamics of large tropical rivers, long-term sediment concentration series have become crucial for understanding the related socioeconomic and environmental impacts. For operational and cost rationalization purposes, index concentrations are often sampled in the flow and used as a surrogate of the cross-sectional average concentration. However, in large rivers where suspended sands are responsible for vertical concentration gradients, this index method can induce large uncertainties in the matter fluxes. Assuming that physical laws describing the suspension of grains in turbulent flow are valid for large rivers, a simple formulation is derived to model the ratio (α) between the depth-averaged and index concentrations. The model is validated using an exceptional dataset (1330 water samples, 249 concentration profiles, 88 particle size distributions and 494 discharge measurements) that was collected between 2010 and 2017 in the Amazonian foreland. The α prediction requires the estimation of the Rouse number (P), which summarizes the balance between the suspended particle settling and the turbulent lift, weighted by the ratio of sediment to eddy diffusivity (β). Two particle size groups, fine sediments and sand, were considered to evaluate P. Discrepancies were observed between the evaluated and measured P, which were attributed to biases related to the settling and shear velocities estimations, but also to diffusivity ratios β≠1. An empirical expression taking these biases into account was then formulated to predict accurate estimates of β, then P (ΔP=±0.03) and finally α. The proposed model is a powerful tool for optimizing the concentration sampling. It allows for detailed uncertainty analysis on the average concentration derived from an index method. Finally, this model could likely be coupled with remote sensing and hydrological modeling to serve as a step toward the development of an integrated approach for assessing sediment fluxes in poorly monitored basins.