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Temporal variability of suspended sediment sources in an alpine catchment combining river/rainfall monitoring and sediment fingerprinting

Abstract : Influence of the rainfall regime on erosion and transfer of suspended sediment in a 905‐km$^2$ mountainous catchment of the southern French Alps was investigated by combining sediment monitoring, rainfall data, and sediment fingerprinting (based on geochemistry and radionuclide concentrations). Suspended sediment yields were monitored between October 2007 and December 2009 in four subcatchments (22–713 km$^2$. Automatic sediment sampling was triggered during floods to trace the sediment origin in the catchment. Sediment exports at the river catchment outlet (330 $\pm$ 100 t km$^{‐2}$ yr$^{‐1}$) were mainly driven (80%) by widespread rainfall events (long duration, low intensities). In contrast, heavy, local and short duration storms, generated high peak discharges and suspended sediment concentrations in small upstream torrents. However, these upstream floods had generally not the capacity to transfer the sediment down to the catchment outlet and the bulk of this fine sediment deposited along downstream sections of the river. This study also confirmed the important contribution of black marls (up to 70%) to sediment transported in rivers, although this substrate only occupies c . 10% of the total catchment surface. Sediment exports generated by local convective storms varied significantly at both intra‐ and inter‐flood scales, because of spatial heterogeneity of rainfall. However, black marls/marly limestones contribution remained systematically high. In contrast, widespread flood events that generate the bulk of annual sediment supply at the outlet were characterized by a more stable lithologic composition and by a larger contribution of limestones/marls, Quaternary deposits and conglomerates, which corroborates the results of a previous sediment fingerprinting study conducted on riverbed sediment.
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O. Navratil, O. Evrard, Michel Esteves, Cédric Legout, Sophie Ayrault, et al.. Temporal variability of suspended sediment sources in an alpine catchment combining river/rainfall monitoring and sediment fingerprinting. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Wiley, 2012, 37 (8), pp.828-846. ⟨10.1002/esp.3201⟩. ⟨cea-02862546⟩

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