Hydrological Drivers of Bedload Transport in an Alpine Watershed

Antoniazza, G.; Nicollier, T.; Boss, S.; Mettra, F.; Badoux, A.; Schaefli, B.; Rickenmann, D.; Lane, S. N. (2022). Hydrological Drivers of Bedload Transport in an Alpine Watershed. Water resources research, 58(3), e2021WR030663. American Geophysical Union 10.1029/2021WR030663

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Understanding and predicting bedload transport is an important element of watershed management. Yet, predictions of bedload remain uncertain by up to several order(s) of magnitude. In this contribution, we use a 5-year continuous time series of streamflow and bedload transport monitoring in a 13.4-km2 snow-dominated Alpine watershed in the Western Swiss Alps to investigate hydrological drivers of bedload transport. Following a calibration of the bedload sensors, and a quantification of the hydraulic forcing of streamflow upon bedload, a hydrological analysis is performed to identify daily flow hydrographs influenced by different hydrological drivers: rainfall, snowmelt, and combined rain and snowmelt events. We then quantify their respective contribution to bedload transport. Results emphasize the importance of combined rain and snowmelt events, for both annual bedload volumes (77% on average) and peaks in bedload transport rate. A non-negligible, but smaller, amount of bedload transport may occur during late summer and autumn storms, once the snowmelt contribution and baseflow have significantly decreased (9% of the annual volume on average). Although rainfall-driven changes in flow hydrographs are responsible for a large majority of the annual bedload volumes (86% on average), the identified melt-only events also represent a substantial contribution (14% on average). The results of this study help to improve current predictions of bedload transport through a better understanding of the bedload magnitude-frequency relationship under different hydrological conditions. We further discuss how bedload transport could evolve under a changing climate through its effects on Alpine watershed hydrology.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Hydrology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Schaefli, Bettina


900 History > 910 Geography & travel




American Geophysical Union




Bettina Schäfli

Date Deposited:

06 Apr 2022 12:00

Last Modified:

24 Jun 2022 20:45

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