Modelling sediment clasts transport during landscape evolution
Abstract. Over thousands to millions of years, the landscape evolution is predicted by models based on fluxes of eroded, transported and deposited material. The laws describing these fluxes, corresponding to averages over many years, are difficult to prove with the available data. On the other hand, sediment dynamics are often tackled by studying the distribution of certain grain properties in the field (e.g. heavy metals, detrital zircons, 10Be in gravel, magnetic tracers). There is a gap between landscape evolution models based on fluxes and these field data on individual clasts, which prevent the latter from being used to calibrate the former. Here we propose an algorithm coupling the landscape evolution with mobile clasts. Our landscape evolution model predicts local erosion, deposition and transfer fluxes resulting from hillslope and river processes. Clasts of any size are initially spread in the basement and are detached, moved and deposited according to probabilities using these fluxes. Several river and hillslope laws are studied. Although the resulting mean transport rate of the clasts does not depend on the time step or the model cell size, our approach is limited by the fact that their scattering rate is cell-size-dependent. Nevertheless, both their mean transport rate and the shape of the scattering-time curves fit the predictions. Different erosion–transport laws generate different clast movements. These differences show that studying the tracers in the field may provide a way to establish these laws on the hillslopes and in the rivers. Possible applications include the interpretation of cosmogenic nuclides in individual gravel deposits, provenance analyses, placers, sediment coarsening or fining, the relationship between magnetic tracers in rivers and the river planform, and the tracing of weathered sediment.