Stream Terraces in the Critical Zone - Lower Gordon Gulch, Colorado

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Warrell, Kathleen Frances
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As bedrock weathers into soil, erosional processes often carry loose sediment down slope into a stream channel. Higher weathering rates produce larger amounts of erodible soil, which then causes sediment in the stream to build up and raise the base level of the stream. Changes in climate and land use may cause changes in the stream's carrying capacity and result in stream incision. As the stream adapts to changes in climate and land use over time, a complex series of fill terraces may form. These terraces can store large amounts of sediment, and it may take thousands of years for the stream to remove this sediment. Gordon Gulch, a small catchment in Colorado's Front Range, is a prime example of a series of complex fill terraces. In this study, five terraces have been thoroughly mapped and characterized. The volume of sediment stored in the terraces is 50,000 cubic meters, and a time span for removal of this sediment is 1,300 years by the model developed by Mueller and Pitlick, (2005). The reliability of the results from this model are also discussed and contrasted with 14C dates obtained from the terraces.
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