Braided rivers distribute sediment across landscapes, often forming wide channel belts that are preserved in stratigraphy as coarse-grained deposits. Theoretical work has established quantitative links between the depth distribution of formative channels in a braided river and the geometry of their preserved strata. However, testing these predictive relationships between geomorphic process and stratigraphic product requires examining how braided rivers and their deposits coevolve, with high resolution in both space and time. Here, using a series of four runs of a physical experiment, we examine the controls of water discharge and slope on the resulting geometry of preserved deposits. Specifically, we focus on how a twofold variation in water discharge and initial riverbed slope affects the spatiotemporal distribution of channel depths and the geometry of preserved deposits of a braided river. We find that the channel depths in the laboratory experiment are described by a two-parameter gamma distribution and the deepest scours correspond to zones of erosion at channel-belt margins and channel-thread confluences in the channel belt. We use a reduced-complexity flow model to reconstruct flow depths, which were shallower compared to channel thalweg depths. Synthetic stratigraphy built from timeseries of topographic surfaces shows that the distribution of cut-and-fill-unit thickness is invariant across the experiments and is determined by the variability in scour depths. We show that the distribution of cut-and-fill-unit thickness can be used to reconstruct formative-channel-depth distributions and that the mean thickness of these units is 0.31 to 0.62 times the mean formative flow depth across all experiments. Our results suggest that variations in discharge and slope do not translate to measurable differences in preserved cut-and-fill-unit thickness, suggesting that changes in external forcings are likely to be preserved in braided river deposits only when they exceed a certain threshold of change.

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