Modelling differential catchment response to environmental change

John Lewin, Tom J. Coulthard, Mark G. Macklin

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Abstract

The CAESAR (Cellular Automaton Evolutionary Slope And River) model is used to demonstrate significant differences in coarse sediment transfer and alluviation in medium sized catchments when responding to identical Holocene environmental changes. Simulations for four U.K. basins (the Rivers Swale, Ure, Nidd and Wharfe) shows that catchment response, driven by climate and conditioned by land cover changes, is synchronous but varies in magnitude. There are bursts of sediment transfer activity, generally of rapid removal but with some sediment accumulation ‘spikes’, with longer periods of slow removal or accumulation of sediment in different valley reaches. Within catchments, reach sensitivity to environmental change varies considerably: some periods are only recorded in some reaches, whilst higher potential sensitivity typically occurs in the piedmont areas of the catchments modelled here. These differential responses appear to be highly non-linear and may relate to the passage of sediment waves, by variable local sediment storage and availability, and by large- and small-scale thresholds for sediment transfer within each catchment. Differential response has major implications for modelling fluvial systems and the interpretation of field data. Model results are compared with the record of dated alluvial deposits in the modelled catchments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-241
Number of pages20
JournalGeomorphology
Volume69
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005

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