Aims & Objectives

Understanding the timescales and controls of sediment dynamics are a prerequisite if we aim to predict the landscape response to changes in temperature, precipitation and runoff. This requires identification of sediment sources and sinks and the mechanisms and rates of sediment transfer at sites in different environments.

In SedyMONT we propose to address this topic on the basis of (i) historical records and field monitoring, (ii) morphometric and geologic histories, (iii) a conceptual modelling framework, and (iv) information on past and present climate variability and scenarios of future climate change.

The main objectives of SedyMONT are to

  • understand the timescales and mechanisms of sediment production and transfer and to identify their effects in selected European mountain landscapes,
  • document changes in process rates over different timescales (millennium to modern) from varioushistorical sources, including monitoring conducted during the project,
  • Â analyze how the inheritance of the landscape (e.g., due to the influence of previous glaciations) has affected process rates,
  • investigate how landscape connectivity affects sediment transfer rates and residence times,
  • develop a conceptual modelling framework to understand the transfer of sediment from sources to sinks (including the estimation of sediment residence times),
  • analyse the frequency and magnitude of precipitation events in the study areas from observed data and regional climate model (RCM) based future climate scenarios,
  • develop time series and chronologies of erosion, sediment yield and landscape change in the study basins.

The routing of sediment and the rate of landscape change are controlled by the landscape's inheritance and transience. This is the case because these instrinsic variables potentially scale long-term denduation rates and the landscape's susceptibility to high-magnitude climatic perturbations. This issue is particularly acute for most of the mountainous topographies of Europe as they were substantially overprinted during the Last Glacial Maximum. In this context, it is relevant to operate with quantitative information about the connectivity between the various landscape architectural elements, and the limits for the routing of sediment.

Specifically, the transfer of sediment and the related landscape change is more efficient if sediment production sites are directly connected with the sediment transfer system. The process rates then either depend on the production rates of sediment (supply-limited sediment flux), and/or the capacity of the routing system to transport sediment (transport-limited sediment flux). In summary, we anticipate that the vulnerability of mountainous drainage basins to external forcing strongly depends on the landscape's inheritance and transience, landscape connectivity, and the nature and magnitude of the rate-limiting process.

The conceptual numerical model will be used to build up an intuitive understanding of how the transfer of sediment from sources to sinks can be expected to vary spatially and temporally in natural catchments where processes and rates (and processes interactions) may vary considerably. The coupled model of hydrological regime and sediment transport will be applied using variable scenarios of climate change and intrinsic properties of the landscape. Specifically, we will explore possible controls on the time required for catchment areas to respond to changes in external forces (response time), and we will test to what extent and at which temporal and spatial scales the landscapes record these changes. The numerical model is anticipated to provide the conceptural framework to interpret the field-based datasets.

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