Abstract

This paper presents absolute ages for flash floods and related sediment entrainment in headwater catchments to construct a spatiotemporal framework of process dynamics and locations of major areas of channel wall erosion. The most reliable method for dating erosion is through dendrogeomorphic studies of exposed tree roots. Based on the analysis of erosion signals in root-ring records we documented a time series of channel wall erosion and successfully dated 21 erosive flash flood events since A.D. 1870 in an ephemeral gully in the Patagonian Andes. The study was performed with roots from Austrocedrus chilensis, Nothofagus dombeyi, and Pseudotsuga menziesii. Results demonstrate the potential of root analyses for the determination of major areas of sediment entrainment. In addition, we show that the position of damage within individual root rings allows inferences about the seasonal timing of flash flood effects and thus an assessment of possible meteorological triggers of erosive events, short intense storms occurring primarily in austral fall and late winter in this case. The approach presented adds significantly to the documentation of sediment entrainment and facilitates identification of areas of rapid erosion in small, remote headwater catchments with ephemeral flash flood activity.

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