Abstract

Fluvial bedrock incision sets the pace of landscape evolution and can be dominated by abrasion from impacting particles. Existing bedrock incision models diverge on the ability of sediment to erode within the suspension regime, leading to competing predictions of lowland river erosion rates, knickpoint formation and evolution, and the transient response of orogens to external forcing. We present controlled abrasion mill experiments designed to test fluvial incision models in the bedload and suspension regimes by varying sediment size while holding fixed hydraulics, sediment load, and substrate strength. Measurable erosion occurred within the suspension regime, and erosion rates agree with a mechanistic incision theory for erosion by mixed suspended and bedload sediment. Our experimental results indicate that suspension-regime erosion can dominate channel incision during large floods and in steep channels, with significant implications for the pace of landscape evolution.

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