Spillage sedimentation on large river floodplains

John Lewin, Philip Ashworth, Robert J.P. Strick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Active deposition across the floodplains of large rivers arises through a variety of processes; collectively these are here termed ‘spillage sedimentation’. Three groups of eleven spillage sedimentation styles are identified and their formative processes described. Form presences on large river floodplains show different combinations of active spillage styles. Only some large floodplains have prominent levees; some have coarse splays; many have accessory channel dispersion and reworking, whilst still-water sedimentation in lacustrine environments dominates some lower reaches. Infills are also commonly funnelled into prior, and often linear, negative relief forms relating to former migration within the mainstream channel belt. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and Landsat 8 data are used to map spillage form types and coverage along a 1700 km reach of the Amazon that has an active floodplain width of up to 110 km with a systematic character transformation down-valley. Spillage forms associated directly with mainstream processes rarely account for more than 5% of the floodplain deposits. There is a marked decrease in floodplain point bar complexes (PBC) over 1700 km downstream (from 34% to 5%), and an increase in the prevalence of large water bodies (2% to 37%) and accompanying internal crevasses and deltas (0% to 5%). Spillage sedimentation is likely within the negative relief associated with these forms, depending on mainstream sediment-laden floodwater inputs. Spillage style dominance depends on the balance between sediment loadings, hydrological sequencing, and morphological opportunity. Down river form sequences are likely to follow gradient change, prior up-river sediment sequestration and the altered nature of spilled loads, but also crucially, local floodplain relief and incident water levels and velocities at spillage times. Considering style distribution quantitatively, as a spatially distributed set of identifiable forms, emphasises the global variety to spillage phenomena along and between large rivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-305
Number of pages16
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Authors. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • floodplain
  • spillage
  • overbank sedimentation
  • large rivers
  • Amazon River


Dive into the research topics of 'Spillage sedimentation on large river floodplains'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this