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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 03 Dec 2018

Research article | 03 Dec 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Cosmogenic 10Be in river sediment: where grain size matters and why

Renee van Dongen1, Dirk Scherler1,2, Hella Wittmann1, and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg1,2 Renee van Dongen et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Earth Surface Geochemistry, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Geological Sciences, 12249 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. Concentrations of in situ-produced cosmogenic 10Be in river sediment are widely used to estimate catchment-average denudation rates. Typically, the 10Be concentrations are measured in the sand fraction of river sediment. However, the grain size of bedload sediment in most bedrock rivers cover a much wider range. Where 10Be concentrations depend on grain size, denudation rate estimates based on the sand fraction alone could potentially be biased. To date, knowledge about catchment attributes that may induce grain size-dependent 10Be concentrations is incomplete or has only been investigated in modelling studies. Here we present an empirical study on the occurrence of grain size-dependent 10Be concentrations and the potential controls of hillslope angle, precipitation, lithology and abrasion. We first conducted a study focusing on the sole effect of precipitation in four granitic catchments located on a climate-gradient in the Chilean Coastal Cordillera. We found that observed grain size dependencies of 10Be concentrations in the most-arid and most-humid catchments could be explained by the effect of precipitation on both the scouring depth of erosion processes and the depth of the mixed soil layer. Analysis of a global dataset of published 10Be concentrations in different grain sizes (n=62 catchments), comprising catchments with contrasting hillslope angles, climate, lithology and catchment size revealed a similar pattern. Lower 10Be concentrations in coarse grains (defined as negative grain size dependency) emerge frequently in catchments which likely have thin soil and where deep-seated erosion processes (e.g. landslides) excavate grains over a larger depth-interval. These catchments include steep (>25°), arid (<100mmyr−1) and humid catchments (>2000mmyr−1). Furthermore, we found that an additional cause of negative grain size dependencies may emerge in large catchments with long sediment travel distances (>2300–7000m, depending on lithology) where abrasion and sediment provenance may lead to a grain size distribution that is not representative for the entire catchment. The results of this study can be used to evaluate whether catchment-average denudation rates are likely to be biased in particular catchments.

Renee van Dongen et al.
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Renee van Dongen et al.
Data sets

Data Supplement to: Cosmogenic 10Be in river sediment: where grain size matters and why R. van Dongen, D. Scherler, H. Wittmann, and F. von Blanckenburg


AZ 0.5-1 R. van Dongen GFRD10010

AZ 1-2 R. van Dongen GFRD10011

AZ 2-4 R. van Dongen GFRD10012

AZ 4-8 R. van Dongen GFRD10013

AZ 8-16 R. van Dongen GFRD10014

AZ 16-32 R. van Dongen GFRD10015

AZ 32-64 R. van Dongen GFRD10016

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SG 1-2 R. van Dongen GFRD1000R

SG 2-4 R. van Dongen GFRD1000S

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SG 32-64 R. van Dongen GFRD1000W

LC 0.5-1 R. van Dongen GFRD1000C

LC 1-2 R. van Dongen GFRD1000D

LC 2-4 R. van Dongen GFRD1000E

LC 4-8 R. van Dongen GFRD1000F

LC 8-16 R. van Dongen GFRD1000G

LC 16-32 R. van Dongen GFRD1000H

LC 32-64 R. van Dongen GFRD1000J

NA 0.5-1 R. van Dongen GFRD10002

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NA 2-4 R. van Dongen GFRD10004

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NA 8-16 R. van Dongen GFRD10006

NA 16-32 R. van Dongen GFRD10007

NA 32-64 R. van Dongen GFRD10008

Renee van Dongen et al.
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Short summary
The concentration of cosmogenic 10Be in river sediment is a widely used method to estimate catchment-average erosion rates. Measuring the 10Be concentration of a single grain size fraction, in catchments where the 10Be concentrations differ per grain size, could potentially result in biased erosion rates. In this study we investigated the causes of grain size-dependent 10Be concentrations and identified the type of catchments which are sensitive to biased catchment-average erosion rates.
The concentration of cosmogenic 10Be in river sediment is a widely used method to estimate...