Channel Initiation and the Problem of Landscape Scale

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Science  14 Feb 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5046, pp. 826-830
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5046.826


Since the 1940s it has been proposed that landscape dissection into distinct valleys is limited by a threshold of channelization that sets a finite scale to the landscape. This threshold is equal to the hillslope length that is just shorter than that necessary to support a channel head. A field study supports this hypothesis by showing that an empirically defined topographic threshold associated with channel head locations also defines the border between essentially smooth, undissected hillslopes and the valley bottoms to which they drain. This finding contradicts assertions that landscapes are scale-independent and suggests that landscape response to changes in climate or land use depends on the corresponding changes in the threshold of channelization.

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