Delineating incised stream sediment sources within a San Francisco Bay tributary basin

Bigelow, Paul; Benda, Lee; Pearce, Sarah

Erosion and sedimentation pose ubiquitous problems for land and watershed managers, requiring delineation of sediment sources and sinks across landscapes. However, the technical complexity of many spatially explicit erosion models precludes their use by practitioners. To address this critical gap, we demonstrate a contemporary use of applied geomorphometry through a straightforward GIS analysis of sediment sources in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, USA, designed to support erosion reduction strategies. Using 2 m lidar digital elevation models, we delineated the entire river network in the Arroyo Mocho watershed (573 km 2) at the scale of  ∼  30 m segments and identified incised landforms using a combination of hillslope gradient and planform curvature. Chronic erosion to the channel network was estimated based on these topographic attributes and the size of vegetation, and calibrated to sediment gage data, providing a spatially explicit estimate of sediment yield from incised channels across the basin. Rates of erosion were summarized downstream through the channel network, revealing patterns of sediment supply at the reach scale. Erosion and sediment supply were also aggregated to subbasins, allowing comparative analyses at the scale of tributaries. The erosion patterns delineated using this approach provide land use planners with a robust framework to design erosion reduction strategies. More broadly, the study demonstrates a modern analysis of important geomorphic processes affected by land use that is easily applied by agencies to solve common problems in watersheds, improving the integration between science and environmental management.

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Bigelow, Paul / Benda, Lee / Pearce, Sarah: Delineating incised stream sediment sources within a San Francisco Bay tributary basin. 2016. Copernicus Publications.

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