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Spatial variability of suspended sediment yield in a gravel-bed river across four orders of magnitude of catchment area

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James Bathurst


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The spatial variation in suspended sediment yield in the River Eden, Cumbria, UK, is quantified and examined from a process-based perspective to challenge existing models for scale dependency in sediment yield. Field measurements were used to quantify suspended sediment yields for 14 sub-catchments within a total catchment area of nearly 1400 km(2), including nine catchments defining a nested basin system starting from 1 km(2). A novel catchment characterisation system was developed, in which broad-scale landscape characteristics were quantified using existing datasets, types of sediment supply feature were identified in a field survey and their distribution across the catchment was quantified using a survey of air photographs. Specific suspended sediment yield was found not to be related to catchment area. The main fine sediment input was from the riparian zone, where many sediment sources were discrete areas of erosion such as sites with livestock poaching and stream-side scars. Connectivity of the rest of the catchment was low. The dominant types of source in an area were related to its topographic, geologic and land use characteristics. Specific suspended sediment yields were higher in lowland sub-catchments where the higher land use intensity and greater extent of superficial sediment deposits resulted in higher erosion susceptibility. Two 'process domains' were identified: lowland and upland. It is suggested that these provide a simple concept for explaining spatial variability in sediment yields as a function of easily measurable catchment properties. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mills CF, Bathurst JC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Catena

Year: 2015

Volume: 133

Pages: 14-24

Print publication date: 01/10/2015

Online publication date: 16/05/2015

Acceptance date: 14/04/2015

ISSN (print): 0341-8162

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6887

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2015.04.008


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