We propose a graphical technique to analyze the entirety of landforms in a catchment to define quantitatively the spatial variation in the dominance of different erosion processes. High-resolution digital elevation data of a 1.2 km2 hilly area where the channel network had been mapped in the field were used in the digital terrain model, TOPOG, to test threshold theories for erosion. The land surface was divided into ∼20 m2 elements whose shapes were then classified as convergent, planar, or divergent. The entire landscape plotted on a graph of area per unit contour length against surface gradient shows each planform plotting as a separate field. A simple steady-state hydrologic model was used to predict zones of saturation and areas of high pore pressure to mimic the extreme hydrologic events responsible for erosive instability of the land surface. The field observation that saturation overland flow is rare outside convergent zones provided a significant constraint on the hydrologic parameter in the model. This model was used in threshold theories to predict areas of slope instability and areas subject to erosion by saturation overland flow, both of which can contribute to channel initiation. The proportion of convergent elements predicted to exceed the threshold varies greatly with relatively small changes in surface resistance, demonstrating a high sensitivity to land use such as cattle grazing. Overall, the landscape can be divided, using erosion threshold lines, into areas prone to channel instability due to runoff and stable areas where diffusive transport predominates.

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