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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 4
Earth Surf. Dynam., 6, 859-881, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-6-859-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Earth Surf. Dynam., 6, 859-881, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-6-859-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Oct 2018

Research article | 08 Oct 2018

Effect of changing vegetation and precipitation on denudation – Part 2: Predicted landscape response to transient climate and vegetation cover over millennial to million-year timescales

Manuel Schmid1, Todd A. Ehlers1, Christian Werner2, Thomas Hickler2,3, and Juan-Pablo Fuentes-Espoz4 Manuel Schmid et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Tuebingen, Wilhelmstrasse 56, 72074 Tuebingen, Germany
  • 2Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt, Germany
  • 3Department of Physical Geography, Geosciences, Goethe University, Altenhoeferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt, Germany
  • 4Department of Silviculture and Nature Conservation, University of Chile, Av. Santa Rosa 11315, La Pintana, Santiago RM, Chile

Abstract. We present a numerical modeling investigation into the interactions between transient climate and vegetation cover with hillslope and detachment limited fluvial processes. Model simulations were designed to investigate topographic patterns and behavior resulting from changing climate and the associated changes in surface vegetation cover. The Landlab surface process model was modified to evaluate the effects of temporal variations in vegetation cover on hillslope diffusion and fluvial erosion. A suite of simulations were conducted to represent present-day climatic conditions and satellite derived vegetation cover at four different research areas in the Chilean Coastal Cordillera. These simulations included steady-state simulations as well as transient simulations with forcings in either climate or vegetation cover over millennial to million-year timescales. Two different transient variations in climate and vegetation cover including a step change in climate or vegetation were used, as well as 100kyr oscillations over 5Myr. We conducted eight different step-change simulations for positive and negative perturbations in either vegetation cover or climate and six simulations with oscillating transient forcings for either vegetation cover, climate, or oscillations in both vegetation cover and climate. Results indicate that the coupled influence of surface vegetation cover and mean annual precipitation shifts basin landforms towards a new steady state, with the magnitude of the change being highly sensitive to the initial vegetation and climate conditions of the basin. Dry, non-vegetated basins show higher magnitudes of adjustment than basins that are situated in wetter conditions with higher vegetation cover. For coupled conditions when surface vegetation cover and mean annual precipitation change simultaneously, the landscape response tends to be weaker. When vegetation cover and mean annual precipitation change independently from one another, higher magnitude shifts in topographic metrics are predicted. Changes in vegetation cover show a higher impact on topography for low initial surface cover values; however, for areas with high initial surface cover, the effect of changes in precipitation dominate the formation of landscapes. This study demonstrates the sensitivity of catchment characteristics to different transient forcings in vegetation cover and mean annual precipitation, with initial vegetation and climate conditions playing a crucial role.

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We present a numerical modeling study into the interactions between transient climate and vegetation cover with hillslope and fluvial processes. We use a state-of-the-art landscape evolution model library (Landlab) and design model experiments to investigate the effect of climate change and the associated changes in surface vegetation cover on main basin metrics. This paper is a companion paper to Part 1 (this journal), which investigates the effect of climate change on surface vegetation cover.
We present a numerical modeling study into the interactions between transient climate and...
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