Depositional landforms

Floodplains

A floodplain is an area of land which is covered in water when a river bursts its banks.

Floodplains form due to both erosion and deposition. Erosion removes any interlocking spurs, creating a wide, flat area on either side of the river. During a flood, material being carried by the river is deposited (as the river loses its speed and energy to transport material). Over time, the height of the floodplain increases as material is deposited on either side of the river.

Floodplains are often agricultural land, as the area is very fertile because it's made up of alluvium (deposited silt from a river flood). The floodplain is often a wide, flat area caused by meanders shifting along the valley.

A floodplain has fertile soil, a wide valley and gentle valley sides. The river meanders through eroded interlocking spurs and can form oxbow lakes.

Levees

  • Levees occur in the lower course of a river when there is an increase in the volume of water flowing downstream and flooding occurs.
  • Sediment that has been eroded further upstream is transported downstream.
  • When the river floods, the sediment spreads out across the floodplain.
  • When a flood occurs, the river loses energy. The largest material is deposited first on the sides of the river banks and smaller material further away.
  • After many floods, the sediment builds up to increase the height of the river banks, meaning that the channel can carry more water (a greater discharge) and flooding is less likely to occur in the future.
During a flood, water flows over the banks and deposits silt. In between floods, slow moving river deposits silt in riverbed and levees. With each flood the levees are built up.

Estuaries

An estuary is where the river meets the sea. The river here is tidal and when the sea retreats the volume of the water in the estuary is less reduced. When there is less water, the river deposits silt to form mudflats which are an important habitat for wildlife.

An aerial view of an estuary and mudflats
An estuary and its mudflats