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Fluvial processes dominate sediment flux from most cold environments and as such are particularly sensitive to environmental change. However, these systems demonstrate high variability in flow and sediment transfer rates in both the short and long-term which presents specific problems for establishing integrated sediment flux studies. The objective of this paper is to briefly review the nature of fluvial and floodplain sediment sources in cold environments and to make recommendations on the measurement of fluvial sediment fluxes from these sources to sinks. The paper outlines a framework for examining fluvial sediment fluxes in cold environments including: sources of sediment in glacial and periglacial environments; techniques for measuring fluvial sediment transfers; and methods for measuring contemporary deposition in lacustrine sediment sinks. Within this framework, we stress that it is particularly important to provide consistency in methods for monitoring sediment flux and to adopt appropriate sampling frequencies. We recommend that the most appropriate methods for establishing integrated sediment flux studies in these cold environments are: repeat surveys and terrestrial laser scanning of valley and slope sediment stores on a monthly – daily frequency; weekly-daily sediment budgeting of bedload transfer using rapid resurvey methods; hourly or better time series of suspended and solute transport using data logger acquisition systems; and monitoring of lacustrine sedimentation using sediment accumulation sensors and/or weekly-daily estimates from passive sediment traps. Application of the proposed integrated framework will improve our understanding of sediment flux in cold environments and allow us to better assess the sensitivity of cold environments to environmental change within the context of contemporary and past sediment flux.
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Keywords: cold environments; fluvial sediment flux; sediment budgets; sinks; sources

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand 2: Department of Geography, Queen's University, Ontario, Canada 3: Department of Geography, Durham University, UK

Publication date: 01 June 2010

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