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Keywords:

  • alluvial gully erosion;
  • gully scarp retreat;
  • suspended sediment concentration;
  • sediment yield;
  • sediment transport-limited

ABSTRACT

Sediment production, transport and yield were quantified over various timescales in response to rainfall and runoff within an alluvial gully (7 · 8 ha), which erodes into dispersible sodic soils of a small floodplain catchment (33 ha) along the Mitchell River, northern Australia. Historical air photographs and recent global positioning system (GPS) surveys and LiDAR data documented linear increases in gully area and volume, indicating that sediment supply has been relatively consistent over the historic period. Daily time lapse photography of scarp retreat rates and internal erosion processes also demonstrated that erosion from rainfall and runoff consistently supplied fine washload (< 63 µm) sediment in addition to coarse lags of sand bed material. Empirical measurements of suspended sediment concentrations (10 000 to >100 000 mg/L) and sediment yields (89 to 363 t/ha/yr) were high for both Australian and world data. Total sediment yield estimated from empirical washload and theoretical bed material load was dominated by fine washload (< 63 µm). A lack of hysteresis in suspended sediment rating curves, scarp retreat and sediment yield correlated to rainfall input, and an equilibrium channel outlet slope supported the hypothesis that partially or fully transport-limited conditions predominated along the alluvial gully outlet channel. This is in contrast to sediment supply-limited conditions on uneroded floodplains above gully head scarps. While empirical data presented here can support future modelling efforts to predict suspended sediment concentration and yield under the transport limiting situations, additional field data will also be needed to better quantify sediment erosion and transport rates and processes in alluvial gullies at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.