An appraisal of the sediment yield in western Mediterranean river basins

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The number of studies assessing soil erosion and sediment transport has increased with the aim of achieving sustainable land and water management. Mediterranean rivers have been the object of many of these studies due to their naturally high values of sediment fluxes and a higher vulnerability under future climate scenarios. In this context, we attempt to use empirical relationships to (i) further assess the relation between sediment yield and basin scale and (ii) provide an update on the main drivers controlling sediment yield in these particular river systems. For this purpose, sediment yield data (from reservoir sedimentation surveys and sediment transport records) was collected from > 100 locations distributed across the western Mediterranean area, with basin areas ranging from 1 to 100,000 km2. Quantile Regression analysis was used to assess the correlation between basin area and sediment yield, while additional basin-scale descriptors were related to sediment yield by means of multiple regression analysis. Results showed the complexity in the relationship between basin scale and sediment yield, with changes in supply conditions with increasing area introducing uncertainties in the correlation. Despite the large scatter, analysis pointed towards the same direction and area appeared to be the main constrain for the maximum value of sediment yield that can be found at a specific basin scale. Results from the multiple regression indicated that variables representing basin's physiography, climate and land use were highly correlated with the basins' sediment yield. Also, a better model performance was obtained when using total sediment yield instead of specific values (per unit area). Validation showed model instability, potentially due to data limitations and the use of catchments with varying characteristics. Overall, despite providing some insights on the correlation between sediment yield and basin-scale characteristics, validation prevented direct extrapolation of the model to other catchments ​
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