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Journal Articles Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Year : 2012

Sediment export from French rivers to the sea


Knowledge of sediment exports from continental areas is essential for estimating denudation rates and biogeochemical cycles. However, the estimation of current sediment fluxes to the sea is often limited by the availability and quality of sediment discharge data. This study aims to quantify the relative contributions of French rivers to the sediment discharge to the ocean. Sediment fluxes were assessed using the French river quality database, which is characterized by a low temporal resolution but long-term measurement periods. An improved rating curve approach (IRCA) using daily discharge data, which allows the estimation of mean annual sediment loads from infrequent sediment concentration data, was used to calculate sediment fluxes. The resulting mean annual sediment loads show that French rivers export c. 16.21 Mt yr-1 of sediments to the sea. Among the 88 defined French rivers flowing to the sea, the four largest basins (Loire, Rhone, Garonne and Seine) export 13.2 Mt yr-1, which corresponds to 81.3% of total exports. No relationship was found between the mass of exported sediment and the size of the drainage basins. This is due to the variety of river basin typologies among these rivers, including lowland rivers in temperate climates, such as the Seine on the one hand and rivers draining mountainous areas in Alpine/Mediterranean areas on the other hand, such as the Rhone. The latter contributes 60% to the total sediment export for France while its drainage area is only 19% of the total area considered. Differences between the river basins considered are also shown by temporal indicators describing the duration of the exports, which may be linked with sediment production processes over drained areas.

Dates and versions

hal-00718223 , version 1 (16-07-2012)



Magalie Delmas, Olivier Cerdan, Bruno Cheviron, Jean-Marie Mouchel, F. Eyrolles. Sediment export from French rivers to the sea. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 2012, 37 (7), pp.754-762. ⟨10.1002/esp.3219⟩. ⟨hal-00718223⟩
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