We evaluate decadal coarse sediment dynamics along the Marecchia River of the Northern Apennines, a fluvial system with a history of gravel mining that led to the incision of a 6-km-long canyon. To this purpose, we subdivided the river into 21 reaches, seen as sediment reservoirs, to examine (1) historical variations in active channel width (1955–2019) in conjunction with (2) change in alluvial sediment storage (2009–2019), by differencing two sequential LiDAR digital elevation models (DEMs) within the active channel footprint. Combined examination of lateral (widening or narrowing) and vertical (aggradation or degradation) channel changes allowed the identification of composite styles of reservoir adjustment, as well as the refinement of geomorphic inference solely based on changes in active channel width. In particular, we find that different styles of decadal adjustment (1) are compatible with supply- and transport-limited conditions, as constrained by degree of confinement, stream channel slope, and active channel width; and (2) indicate different stages of evolution at reservoirs located upstream and downstream of the canyon head (dynamic equilibrium vs. transient response). The persistence of this geomorphic divide is supported over historical time scales by distinctive trends in planform channel changes, suggesting that sedimentary signal propagation downstream becomes abruptly interrupted at the canyon head. Over this 10-year natural experiment, the spatial pattern of erosion along the canyon exemplifies a striking case of transient response to anthropogenic forcing, where decadal topographic change, modulated by varying styles of hillslope-channel coupling, declines nonlinearly downstream. Depth of incision along the canyon increases progressively upstream, suggesting that the canyon head has been evolving toward a more unstable configuration with no significant change in sediment supply. This tendency, which points to a possible runaway style of development as bedload wearing on weak pelitic side walls continues, may hold basic implications for our understanding of channel incision into bedrock and strath terrace formation.

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