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Discharge and suspended sediment patterns in a small mountainous watershed with widely distributed rock fragments

Fang, N.F., Shi, Z.H., Chen, F.X., Zhang, H.Y., Wang, Y.X.
Journal of hydrology 2015 v.528 pp. 238-248
climatic factors, hydrograph, hysteresis, least squares, permeability, pollution load, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, soil, suspended sediment, temporal variation, topographic slope, watersheds, China
Understanding and quantifying sediment loads is important in watersheds with highly erodible materials, which will eventually cause environmental and ecological problems. Within this context, suspended sediment (SS) transport and its temporal dynamics were studied in a small mountainous watershed with sloping lands containing rock fragments in subtropical China. Soils containing rock fragments with many macro-pores have a high permeability rate. Over a 7-year period, the mean runoff coefficient of this watershed was 0.65. Overall, 30 flood events were monitored and accounted for 95.5%, 27.3%, 17.1% of the total SS load, precipitation and total discharge, respectively, over a 5-year period. The presence of rock fragments in soils can affect soil loss. When comparing the soil loss in the studied watershed with that of other watersheds under similar climatic conditions, rock fragments negatively affect soil loss. However, an extreme event occurred on 14 August 1990, and the sediment load exhibited a phenomenon called “small deposits towards lump withdrawal”, which resulted in a soil loss of 20,499t (4.6 times the mean yearly soil loss). This event exhausted most of the SSs stored by the rock fragments on the slope and channel. Following this event, the mean SS concentration (SSC) of the 11 events was 1.05kgm−3, and the mean SSC of the 18 previous events was 1.75kgm−3. Twelve variables were separated using the classical hydrograph separation method. Partial least-squares regression (PLSR) was used to determine the highly co-related variables of the discharge. The results indicated that PLSR could explain runoff well. The relationship between discharge and SSC was highly scattered. During 24 flood events, three types of hysteresis loops were observed: clockwise (17 events), figure-eight (3 events), and complex (4 events).