Hillslopes supply sediment to river channels, and therefore impact drainage basin functioning and evolution. The relationship between hillslope attributes and sediment flux forms the basis of geomorphic transport laws used to model the long-term topographic evolution of drainage basins, but their specific interactions during individual storm events are not well understood. Runoff-driven erosion of coarse particles, prevalent in dryland environments, presents a particular set of conditions for sediment transport that is poorly resolved in current models. In order to address this gap, we developed a particle-based, force-balance model for sheetwash sediment transport on coarse, debris-mantled hillslopes within a rainfall-runoff model. We use the model to examine how the interplay between hillslope attributes (gradient, length and grain size distribution) and runoff characteristics affects sediment transport, grain-size changes on the hillslope, and sediment supply to the slope base. The relationship between sediment flux and hillslope gradient was found to transition from linear above a threshold to sigmoidal depending on hillslope length, initial grain sizes, and runoff characteristics. Grain sizes supplied to the slope base vary in a complex manner with hillslope attributes but an overall coarsening of the hillslopes is found to occur with increasing gradient, corroborating previous findings from field measurements. Intense, short duration storms result in within-hillslope sediment redistribution and equifinality in sediment supply for different hillslope characteristics, which explain the lack of field evidence for any systematic relationships. Our model findings provide insights into hillslope responses to climatic forcing and have theoretical implications for modeling hillslope evolution in dry lands.
|Translated title of the contribution||Sediment transport by runoff on debris-mantled dryland hillslopes|
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface|
|Early online date||9 Aug 2012|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2012|