Erosion rates in the southern oregon coast range: Evidence for an equilibrium between hillslope erosion and sediment yield

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Abstract

The relationship of hillslope erosion rates and sediment yield is often poorly defined because of short periods of measurement and inherent spatial and temporal variability in erosion processes. In landscapes containing hillslopes crenulated by alternating topographic noses and hollows, estimates of local hillslope erosion rates averaged over long time periods can be obtained by analysing colluvial deposits in the hollows. Hollows act as local traps for a portion of the colluvium transported down hillslopes, and erosion rates can be calculated using the age and size of the deposits and the size of the contributing source area. Analysis of colluvial deposits in nine Oregon Coast Range hollows has yielded average colluvial transport rates into the hollows of about 35cm3cm−1yr−1 and average bedrock lowering rates of about 0.07 mm yr−1 for the last 4000 to 15000 yr. These rates are consistent with maximum bedrock exfoliation rates of about 0.09 mm yr−1 calculated from six of the hollows, supporting the interpretation that exfoliation rates limit erosion rates on these slopes. Sediment yield measurements from nine Coast Range streams provide similar basin-wide denudation rates of between 0.05 and 0.08mm yr−1, suggesting an approximate steady-state between sediment production on hillslopes and sediment yield. In addition, modern sediment yields are similar in basins varying in size from 1 to 1500 km2, suggesting that erosion rates are spatially uniform and providing additional evidence for an approximate equilibrium in the landscape.

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