Alluvial rivers are the most important agents of sediment transport in continental basins, whose fluvial deposits enclose information related to the time when rivers were active. In order to extract the most information from fluvial deposits in the sedimentary record, it is imperative to quantify the natural variability of channel patterns at the global scale, explore what controls may influence their development, and investigate whether channel pattern information is preserved in the alluvial plains in order to develop tools for recognizing them in the sedimentary record. By surveying 361 reaches of modern alluvial rivers with available water discharge data at a global scale, we present a quantitative channel pattern classification based on sinuosity and channel count index applicable to the recognition in the rock record. A continuum of channel patterns ranging from high-sinuosity single channel to low-sinuosity multichannels is documented, along with the proportion of depositional elements in their alluvial plains and their conditions of occurrence. Preserved barforms in the alluvial plains of these rivers are used to infer and quantify paleoflow directions at the channel-belt scale and result in ranges of paleocurrent circular variance that may lead to channel pattern identification in the rock record. Data from this work indicate that the recognition of channel patterns may be used to predict paleogeographic features such as the scale of drainage basin area and discharge, slope, and annual discharge regimes.

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