River processes shape the land in different ways as the river moves from its source to its mouth.
Erosion involves the wearing away of rock and soil found along the river bed and banks. Erosion also involves the breaking down of the rock particles being carried downstream by the river.
The four main forms of river erosion
- Hydraulic action - the force of the river against the banks can cause air to be trapped in cracks and crevices. The pressure weakens the banks and gradually wears it away.
- Abrasion - rocks carried along by the river wear down the river bed and banks.
- Attrition - rocks being carried by the river smash together and break into smaller, smoother and rounder particles.
- Solution - soluble particles are dissolved into the river.
Rivers pick up and carry material as they flow downstream.
The four different river transport processes
- Solution - minerals are dissolved in the water and carried along in solution.
- Suspension - fine light material is carried along in the water.
- Saltation - small pebbles and stones are bounced along the river bed.
- Traction - large boulders and rocks are rolled along the river bed.
Transport of material in a river
Rivers need energy to transport material, and levels of energy change as the river moves from source to mouth.
- When energy levels are very high, large rocks and boulders can be transported. Energy levels are usually higher near a river's source, when its course is steep and its valley narrow. Energy levels rise even higher in times of flood.
- When energy levels are low, only small particles can be transported (if any). Energy levels are lowest when velocity drops as a river enters a lake or sea (at the mouth).
When a river loses energy, it will drop or deposit some of the material it is carrying.
- Deposition may take place when a river enters an area of shallow water or when the volume of water decreases - for example, after a flood or during times of drought.
- Deposition is common towards the end of a river's journey, at the mouth.
- Deposition at the mouth of a river can form deltas - for example, the Mississippi Delta.
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