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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-265
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-265
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Jul 2018

Research article | 10 Jul 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Emergent stationarity in Yellow River sediment transport and the underlying shift of dominance: from streamflow to vegetation

Sheng Ye1, Qihua Ran1, Xudong Fu2, Chunhong Hu3, Guangqian Wang2, Gary Parker4, Xiuxiu Chen1, and Siwei Zhang1 Sheng Ye et al.
  • 1Institute of Hydrology and Water Resources, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Hydro-science and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin, Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100048, China
  • 4Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Department of Geology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA

Abstract. Soil erosion and sediment transport play important roles in terrestrial landscape evolution and biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and contaminants. Although discharge is considered to be a controlling factor in sediment transport, its correlation with sediment concentration varies across the Yellow River Basin (YRB) and is not fully understood. This paper provides analysis from gauges across the YRB covering a range of climate, topographic characteristics and degree of human intervention. Our results show that discharge control on sediment transport is dampened at gauges with large mean annual discharge, where sediment concentration becomes more and more stable. This emergent stationarity can be attributed to vegetation resistance. Our analysis shows that sediment concentration follows a bell shape with vegetation index (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) at annual scale despite heterogeneity in climate and landscape. We obtain the counterintuitive result that as mean annual discharge increases, the dominant control on sediment transport shifts from streamflow erosion to vegetation retardation in the YRB.

Sheng Ye et al.
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Short summary
Our study shows that there is declining coupling between sediment concentration and discharge from daily to annual scales for gauges across the Yellow River Basin (YRB) . Not only the coupling, but also the magnitude of sediment response to discharge variation decreases with long-term mean discharge. This emergent stationarity can be related to sediment retardation by vegetation, suggesting the shift of dominance from water to vegetation as mean annual discharge increases.
Our study shows that there is declining coupling between sediment concentration and discharge...
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