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Variation in suspended sediment yield across the UK – a failure of the concept and interpretation of the sediment delivery ratio.

Worrall, F. and Burt, T.P. and Howden, N.J.K. and Hancock, G.R. (2014) 'Variation in suspended sediment yield across the UK – a failure of the concept and interpretation of the sediment delivery ratio.', Journal of hydrology., 519 (Part B). pp. 1985-1996.


The sediment delivery ratio (SDR) has been a common approach developed to understand change in sediment yield and flux through a catchment. In this study we propose that the underlying concept of the sediment delivery ratio is flawed for a number of reasons: its linear extrapolation is physically meaningless; there is no evidence of the magnitude of storage required by the SDR approach on annual to decadal timescales; and the SDR approach assumes suspended sediment transport is conservative yet it is known to undergo both loss and production in-channel. This study considers the sediment yield from 192 UK catchments from 1974 to 2010 for catchment areas between 4 and 9948 km2 and shows that linear extrapolation of the SDR approach overpredicts source terms and underpredicts fluxes for large catchments. The SDR approach hides a range of behaviours of suspended sediment flux within catchments with patterns of net deposition, net increase or no change all apparent in UK catchments. The approach proved to be self-correlated which meant that it can result in spurious correlations when compared to catchment area. The change in yield with catchment area can be just as well understood as a change in sediment supply from channels rather than as a change in delivery from hillslope sources. We propose that suspended sediment flux change with catchment area be modelled as a more physically-meaningful Gompertz function (step function) rather than using the traditional SDR approach.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Suspended sediment flux, SDR, Particulate organic matter, Rivers.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Hydrology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Hydrology, 519, Part B, 27 November 2014, 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.09.066.
Date accepted:24 September 2014
Date deposited:01 May 2015
Date of first online publication:November 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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