Concentrations of in situ 10Be measured in detrital fluvial sediment are frequently used to estimate long-term erosion rates of drainage basins. In many regions, basin-averaged erosion rates are positively correlated with basin average slope. The slope dependence of erosion allows model-based erosion rate estimation for unsampled basins and basins where human disturbance may have biased cosmogenic nuclide concentrations in sediment. Using samples collected from southeastern North America, we demonstrate an approach that explicitly considers the relationship between average basin slope and erosion rate. Because dams and reservoirs are ubiquitous on larger channels in the field area, we selected 36 undammed headwater subbasins (average area 10.6 km2) from which we collected river sand samples and measured 10Be concentrations. We used these data to train a predictive model that relates average basin slope and 10Be-inferred erosion rate. Applying our model to 28 basins in the same region previously studied with 10Be, we find that the model successfully predicts erosion rates for basins of different sizes if they are undammed or if samples were collected >25 km downstream of dams. For samples collected closer to dams, measured erosion rates exceed modeled erosion rates for two-thirds of the samples. In three of four cases where paired samples were collected upstream of reservoirs and downstream of the impounding dam, 10Be concentrations were lower downstream. This finding has implications for detrital cosmogenic studies, whether or not samples were collected directly downstream of dams, because dams obstruct most major rivers around the world, effectively trapping sediment that originated upstream.
© 2017. American Geophysical Union.
Reusser LJ, Bierman PR, Rizzo DM, Portenga EW, Rood DH. Characterizing landscape‐scale erosion using 10Be in detrital fluvial sediment: Slope‐based sampling strategy detects the effect of widespread dams. Water Resources Research. 2017 May;53(5):4476-86.