Gully catchments as a sediment sink, not just a source: Results from a long-term (~12 500 year) sediment budget

A. Larsen, T. Heckmann, J.R. Larsen, H.-R. Bork

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sediment delivery from hillslopes to trunk streams represents a significant pathway of mass transfer in the landscape, with a large fraction facilitated by gully systems.

The internal gully geomorphic dynamics represent a considerable gap in many landscape and empirical erosion models, therefore a better understanding of these processes over longer timescales (10–104 years) is needed. This study analyses the sediment mass balance and storage dynamics within a headwater gully catchment in central Europe over the last ~12 500 years. Human induced erosion resulted in hillslope erosion rates ~2.3 times higher than under naturally de-vegetated conditions (during the Younger Dryas), however the total sediment inputs to the gully system (and therefore gully aggradation), were similar. Net gully storage has consistently increased to become the second largest term in the sediment budget after hillslope erosion (storage is ~45% and ~73% of inputs during two separate erosion and aggradation cycles). In terms of the depletion of gully sediment storage, the sediment mass balance shows that export beyond the gully fan was not significant until the last ~500 years, due to reduced gully fan accommodation space. The significance of storage effects on the gully sediment mass balance, particularly the export terms, means that it would be difficult to determine the influences of human impact and/or climatic changes from floodplain or lake sedimentary archives alone and that the sediment budgets of the headwater catchments from which they drain are more likely to provide these mechanistic links.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-498
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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