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Keywords:

  • sediment delivery and transport;
  • erosion;
  • deposition;
  • scaling behavior

[1] This paper proposes a theoretical explanation of the variations of the sediment delivery ratio (SDR) versus catchment area relationships and the complex patterns in the behavior of sediment transfer processes at catchment scale. Taking into account the effects of erosion source types, deposition, and hydrological controls, we propose a simple conceptual model that consists of two linear stores arranged in series: a hillslope store that addresses transport to the nearest streams and a channel store that addresses sediment routing in the channel network. The model identifies four dimensionless scaling factors, which enable us to analyze a variety of effects on SDR estimation, including (1) interacting processes of erosion sources and deposition, (2) different temporal averaging windows, and (3) catchment runoff response. We show that the interactions between storm duration and hillslope/channel travel times are the major controls of peak-value-based sediment delivery and its spatial variations. The interplay between depositional timescales and the travel/residence times determines the spatial variations of total-volume-based SDR. In practical terms this parsimonious, minimal complexity model could provide a sound physical basis for diagnosing catchment to catchment variability of sediment transport if the proposed scaling factors can be quantified using climatic and catchment properties.