• Sediment storage;
  • sediment budget;
  • landform analysis;
  • sediment cascade;
  • GIS modelling


The determination of sediment storage is a critical parameter in sediment budget analyses. But, in many sediment budget studies the quantification of magnitude and time-scale of sediment storage is still the weakest part and often relies on crude estimations only, especially in large drainage basins (>100 km2). We present a new approach to storage quantification in a meso-scale alpine catchment of the Swiss Alps (Turtmann Valley, 110 km2).

The quantification of depositional volumes was performed by combining geophysical surveys and geographic information system (GIS) modelling techniques. Mean thickness values of each landform type calculated from these data was used to estimate the sediment volume in the hanging valleys and the trough slopes. Sediment volume of the remaining subsystems was determined by modelling an assumed parabolic bedrock surface using digital elevation model (DEM) data.

A total sediment volume of 781·3×106–1005·7×106 m3 is deposited in the Turtmann Valley. Over 60% of this volume is stored in the 13 hanging valleys. Moraine landforms contain over 60% of the deposits in the hanging valleys followed by sediment stored on slopes (20%) and rock glaciers (15%).

For the first time, a detailed quantification of different storage types was achieved in a catchment of this size. Sediment volumes have been used to calculate mean denudation rates for the different processes ranging from 0·1 to 2·6 mm/a based on a time span of 10 ka.

As the quantification approach includes a number of assumptions and various sources of error the values given represent the order of magnitude of sediment storage that has to be expected in a catchment of this size. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.