This paper focuses on the problem of measuring stream power in a hydrographic network using the original definition provided by Bagnold in 1996. Recent digital elevation models have enabled the calculation of channel gradients and, consequently, stream power with a finer spatial resolution, and this has created promising and novel opportunities to investigate river geomorphological processes and forms. The work carried out in this study includes defining and implementing a methodological approach that could be automated within a geographic information system and that meets two requirements: (1) it uses a DEM as input data at a suitable resolution; (2) it estimates the stream power
, as well as its variability along the considered stream, in the best possible way using available data. In particular, the methodological approach was implemented in a GIS environment (GRASS GIS) and applied to a sample basin to highlight the variability in
along the main stream and its most important tributaries. The sudden and more substantial variations in stream power were then related to the processes acting in the fluvial system. This approach made it possible to highlight how erosion, solid transport, and sedimentation phenomena occurring along the fluvial reaches are related to abrupt variations (increase/decrease) in the “power” available. The results of this study support the idea that the automated and standardized screening of stream power variability along a stream can be used as a preliminary diagnostic element to identify the most “sensitive” points of the stream on which to concentrate subsequent investigations (field checks to verify the causes), with the aim of mitigating risks due to the dynamics of the riverbed.
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