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Contrasting human versus climatic control of erosion


T.C Cook

Jonathan Woodruff

D Miller

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Geophysical Research Letters


Both human activity and climate change can influence erosion rates and initiate rapid landscape change. Understanding the relative impact of these factors is critical to managing the risks of extreme erosion related to flooding and landslide occurrence. Here we present a 2100 year record of sediment mass accumulation and inferred erosion based on lacustrine sediment cores from Amherst Lake, Vermont, USA. Using deposition from August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene as a modern analogue, we identified distinct event deposits indicative of destructive erosion events. These deposits record a prolonged (multidecadal) interval of enhanced erosion following the initial storm-induced landscape disturbance. The direct impact of human land cover alteration is minimal in comparison to the more recent twentieth century increase in the occurrence of catastrophic erosion linked to overall wetter conditions that favor high erosion rates and more easily trigger landslides during periods of extreme precipitation.