During the breakup of river ice covers, a greater potential for erosion occurs due to rising discharge and moving ice and the highly dynamic waves that form upon ice-jam release. Consequently, suspended-sediment concentrations can increase sharply and peak before the arrival of the peak flow. Large spikes in sediment concentrations occasionally occur during the passage of sharp waves resulting from releases of upstream ice jams and the ensuing ice runs. This is important, as river form and function (both geomorphologic and ecological) depend upon sediment erosion and deposition. Yet, sediment monitoring programs often overlook the higher suspended-sediment concentrations and loads that occur during the breakup period owing to data-collection difficulties in the presence of moving ice and ice jams. In this review paper, we introduce basics of river sediment erosion and transport and of relevant phenomena that occur during the breakup of river ice. Datasets of varying volume and detail on measured and inferred suspended-sediment concentrations during the breakup period on different rivers are reviewed and compared. Possible effects of river characteristics on seasonal sediment supply are discussed, and the implications of increased sediment supply are reviewed based on seasonal comparisons. The paper also reviews the environmental significance of increased sediment supply both on water quality and ecosystem functionality.
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