Sediment yield model implementation based on check dam infill stratigraphy in a semiarid Mediterranean catchment
Soil loss and sediment transport in Mediterranean areas are driven by complex non-linear processes which have been only partially understood. Distributed models can be very helpful tools for understanding the catchment-scale phenomena which lead to soil erosion and sediment transport. In this study, a modelling approach is proposed to reproduce and evaluate erosion and sediment yield processes in a Mediterranean catchment (Rambla del Poyo, Valencia, Spain). Due to the lack of sediment transport records for model calibration and validation, a detailed description of the alluvial stratigraphy infilling a check dam that drains a 12.9 km 2 sub-catchment was used as indirect information of sediment yield data. These dam infill sediments showed evidences of at least 15 depositional events (floods) over the time period 1990–2009. The TETIS model, a distributed conceptual hydrological and sediment model, was coupled to the Sediment Trap Efficiency for Small Ponds (STEP) model for reproducing reservoir retention, and it was calibrated and validated using the sedimentation volume estimated for the depositional units associated with discrete runoff events. The results show relatively low net erosion rates compared to other Mediterranean catchments (0.136 Mg ha −1 yr −1), probably due to the extensive outcrops of limestone bedrock, thin soils and rather homogeneous vegetation cover. The simulated sediment production and transport rates offer model satisfactory results, further supported by in-site palaeohydrological evidences and spatial validation using additional check dams, showing the great potential of the presented data assimilation methodology for the quantitative analysis of sediment dynamics in ungauged Mediterranean basins.