Environmental Earth Sciences

, 77:119 | Cite as

Impact of floodplain gravel mining on landforms and processes: a study case in Orlat gravel pit (Romania)

Original Article


Understanding gravel mining, a very common but aggressive activity, as a morphogenetic action is fundamental for analyzing and assessing the impact on floodplain morphology and the dynamic of riverbeds, on sediments budget and water balance assessment, but also for floodplain planning and resources management. Field observations and GIS analysis were performed in a gravel pit area from central Romania to assess the impact of gravel harvesting during the last decade (2005–2015) on floodplain landscape, landforms dynamic and fluvial processes. Field measurements, diachronic analysis on maps, channel sinuosity coefficient and braided coefficient were carried out to assess the riverbed pattern. The results indicate that the intensive harvesting of gravels and sands in floodplain area leads to doubling of pit and pit ponds surfaces, changes in floodplain morphology and landscape degradation and radical changes in land use/land cover. The channel analysis indicates that the natural conditions and gravel harvesting had an important role in riverbed mobility and reveals different patterns along the Cibin River: meandered, disentangling and sinuous. The main changes of the riverbed consist of meanders radius reduction, meander loops migration northward and downstream, increased sinuosity and decreased braided coefficient. This study facilitates a better understanding of the geomorphologic consequences of off-stream gravel harvesting, the fluvial processes variability linked to flow and bedload and point to human action as morphogenetic and morphodynamic factors. Moreover, this study may enhance the environmental significance in sustainable management of floodplain being a useful tool in applied ecology, river remediation studies and territorial planning.


Gravel mining Off-stream pit Floodplain morphology Flow Riverbed mobility Meandering Disentangling 



The author is grateful to the Sibiu Water Management System for hydrological data providing and to reviewers for their insightful and constructive suggestions. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not for profit sectors.


  1. Brestolani F, Solari L, Rinaldi M, Lollino G (2015) On the morphological impacts of gravel mining: the case of the Orco River. Eng Geol Soc Territ 3:319–322Google Scholar
  2. Burt TP, Pinay G, Matheson FE, Haycock NE, Butturini A, Clement JC, Maitre V (2002) Water table fluctuations in the riparian zone: comparative results from a pan-European experiment. J Hydrol 265(1):129–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Calle M, Alho P, Benito G (2017) Channel dynamics and geomorphic resilience in an ephemeral Mediterranean river affected by gravel mining. Geomorphology 285:333–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clilverd HM, Thompson JR, Heppell CM, Sayer CD, Axmacher JC (2013) River-floodplain hydrology of an embanked lowland Chalk river and initial response to embankment removal. Hydrol Sci J 58(3):627–650. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Collins BD, Dunne T (1989) Gravel transport, gravel harvesting, and channel-bed degradation in rivers draining the southern Olympic Mountains, Washington, USA. Environ Geol Water Sci 13(3):213–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costea M (2010) Morphological evolution of riverbeds—case study: inferior sector of Cibin River upstream of Sibiu (Olt basin—Romania). In: Proceedings of 38th IAD conference, 22–25 June 2010, Dresden, Germany, pp 75–80Google Scholar
  7. Erskine W (1990) Environmental impacts of sand and gravel extraction on river systems. In: Davie P, Stock E, Low Choy D (eds) The Brisbane River. A source-book for the future. The Australian Littoral Society Inc. in association with the Queensland Museum, Brisbane, pp 295–302Google Scholar
  8. Gaillot S, Piégay H (1999) Impact of gravel-mining on stream channel and coastal sediment supply: example of the Calvi Bay in Corsica (France). J Coast Res 15(3):774–788Google Scholar
  9. Gharbi M, Soualmia A, Dartus D, Masbernat L (2016) Floods effects on rivers morphological changes application to the Medjerda River in Tunisia. J Hydrol Hydromech 64(1):56–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hooke JM (2008) Temporal variations in fluvial processes on an active meandering river over a 20-year period. Geomorphology 100:3–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hosu M, Sabo H (2012) The morphodynamics of the Someş River Channel, Northwestern Romania, as response to natural influences. APCBEE Procedia 1:210–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Janes VJ, Nicholas AP, Collins AL, Quine TA (2017) Analysis of fundamental physical factors influencing channel bank erosion: results for contrasting catchments in England and Wales. Environ Earth Sci 76(7):307. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Knighton D (2014) Fluvial forms and processes: a new perspective. Routledge, AbingdonGoogle Scholar
  14. Kondolf GM (1994) Geomorphic and environmental effects of instream gravel minning. Landsc Urban Plan 28:225–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kondolf GM (1997) Hungry water: effects of dams and gravel minning on river channels. Environ Manag 21(4):533–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kondolf GM (1998) Environmental effects of aggregate extraction from river channels and floodplains. In: Boborwsky PO (ed) Aggregate resources: a global perspective. A A Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 113–129Google Scholar
  17. Kondolf GM, Piégay H, Landon N (2002) Channel response to increased and decreased bedload supply from land use change: contrasts between two catchments. Geomorphology 45(1):35–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ladson AR, Judd DA (2014) A review of the effect of floodplain gravel on river stability. In: Vietz G, Rutherfurd ID, Hughes R (eds) Proceedings of the 7th Australian stream management conference, Townsville, Queensland, pp 349–359Google Scholar
  19. Leopold LB, Wolman MG, Miller JP (2012) Fluvial processes in geomorphology. Courier Corporation, North ChelmsfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Madej MA, Ozaki V (1996) Channel response to sediment wave propagation and movement, Redwood Creek, California, USA. Earth Surf Proc Landf 21(10):911–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Magliulo P, Bozzi F, Pignone M (2016) Assessing the planform changes of the Tammaro River (southern Italy) from 1870 to 1955 using a GIS-aided historical map analysis. Environ Earth Sci 75(4):1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Michalková M, Piégay H, Kondolf GM, Greco SE (2011) Lateral erosion of the Sacramento River, California (1942–1999), and responses of channel and floodplain lake to human influences. Earth Surf Proc Landf 36(2):257–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mossa J, Marks SR (2011) Pit avulsions and planform change on a mined river floodplain: Tangipahoa River, Louisiana. Phys Geogr 32(6):512–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Norman DK, Cederholm CJ, Lingley WS Jr (1998) Floodplains, salmon habitat and sand and gravel minning. Wash Geol 26(2–3):3–20Google Scholar
  25. Padmalal D, Maya K (2014) Sand mining. Environmental impacts and selected case studies. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Rădoane M, Rădoane N (2005) Dams, sediment sources and reservoir silting in Romania. Geomorphology 71(1):112–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rădoane M, Rădoane N (2007) Applied geomorphology (Geomorfologie aplicată). Universităţii Suceava, SuceavaGoogle Scholar
  28. Rădoane M, Rădoane N, Cristea I, Gancevici-Oprea D (2008) Assessing the contemporary changes in the Prut riverbed on Romanian border. Rev Geomorfol 10:57–71Google Scholar
  29. Reid I, Frostick LE, Layman JT (1985) The incidence and nature of bedload transport during flood flows in coarse-grained alluvial channels. Earth Surf Proc Land 10(1):33–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rinaldi M, Wyżga B, Surian N (2005) Sediment mining in alluvial channels: physical effects and management perspectives. River Res Appl 21(7):805–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rovira A, Kondolf GM (2008) Bed mobility on the Deschutes River, Oregon: tracer gravel results. Geodin Acta 21(1–2):11–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Salit F, Toroimac IG (2013) Actual in-stream mining in alluvial rivers: geomorphological impact and European legislation. In: Proceedings of the 3rd international geography symposium (GEOMED), pp 10–13Google Scholar
  33. Sandu M (1998) Sibiu—Apold depressionary passageway. Geomorphological study (Culoarul depresionar Sibiu—Apold. Studiu geomorfologic). Academiei, BucureştiGoogle Scholar
  34. Skempton AW, Brogan JM (1994) Experiments on piping in sandy gravels. Geotechnique 44(3):449–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Surian N, Rinaldi M (2003) Morphological response to river engineering and management in alluvial channels in Italy. Geomorphology 50(4):307–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ta W, Jia X, Wang H (2013) Channel deposition induced by bank erosion in response to decreased flows in the sand-banked reach of the upstream Yellow River. CATENA 105:62–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Uribelarrea D, Perez-Gonzalez A, Benito G (2003) Channel changes in the Jarama and Tagus rivers (central Spain) over the past 500 years. Quatern Sci Rev 22:2209–2221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Van Looy K, Tormos T, Souchon Y (2014) Disentangling dam impacts in river Networks. Ecol Indic 37:10–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walling DE, Collins AL (2005) Suspended sediment sources in British rivers. In: Sediment budgets 1 International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication No. 291, Wallingford, pp 123–133Google Scholar
  40. Wishart D, Warburton J, Bracken L (2008) Gravel extraction and planform change in a wandering gravel-bed river: The River Wear, Northern England. Geomorphology 94(1):131–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zaharia L, Grecu F, Ioana-Toroimac G, Neculau G (2011) Sediment transport and river channel dynamics in Romania-variability and control factors. INTECH Open Access PublisherGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of SciencesLucian Blaga University of SibiuSibiuRomania

Personalised recommendations