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Rapidly-migrating and internally-generated knickpoints can control submarine channel evolution.

Heijnen, Maarten S. and Clare, Michael A. and Cartigny, Matthieu J. B. and Talling, Peter J. and Hage, Sophie and Lintern, D. Gwyn and Stacey, Cooper and Parsons, Daniel R. and Simmons, Stephen M. and Chen, Ye and Sumner, Esther J. and Dix, Justin K. and Hughes Clarke, John E. (2020) 'Rapidly-migrating and internally-generated knickpoints can control submarine channel evolution.', Nature communications., 11 (1). p. 3129.


Submarine channels are the primary conduits for terrestrial sediment, organic carbon, and pollutant transport to the deep sea. Submarine channels are far more difficult to monitor than rivers, and thus less well understood. Here we present 9 years of time-lapse mapping of an active submarine channel along its full length in Bute Inlet, Canada. Past studies suggested that meander-bend migration, levee-deposition, or migration of (supercritical-flow) bedforms controls the evolution of submarine channels. We show for the first time how rapid (100–450 m/year) upstream migration of 5-to-30 m high knickpoints can control submarine channel evolution. Knickpoint migration-related changes include deep (>25 m) erosion, and lateral migration of the channel. Knickpoints in rivers are created by external factors, such as tectonics, or base-level change. However, the knickpoints in Bute Inlet appear internally generated. Similar knickpoints are found in several submarine channels worldwide, and are thus globally important for how channels operate.

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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit licenses/by/4.0/.
Date accepted:26 May 2020
Date deposited:01 July 2020
Date of first online publication:19 June 2020
Date first made open access:01 July 2020

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