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Journal of Geophysical Research

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Geology -- California -- Gabilan Range, Geomorphology -- California -- Gabilan Range, Sediment transport -- Mathematical models


In mountainous terrain, deep‐seated landslides transport large volumes of material on hillslopes, exerting a dominant control on erosion rates and landscape form. Here, we develop a mathematical landscape evolution model to explore interactions between deep‐seated earthflows, soil creep, and gully processes at the drainage basin scale over geomorphically relevant (>103 year) timescales. In the model, sediment flux or incision laws for these three geomorphic processes combine to determine the morphology of actively uplifting and eroding steady state topographic profiles. We apply the model to three sites, one in the Gabilan Mesa, California, with no earthflow activity, and two along the Eel River, California, with different lithologies and varying levels of historic earthflow activity. Representative topographic profiles from these sites are consistent with model predictions in which the magnitude of a dimensionless earthflow number, based on a non‐Newtonian flow rheology, reflects the magnitude of recent earthflow activity on the different hillslopes. The model accurately predicts the behavior of earthflow collection and transport zones observed in the field and estimates long‐term average sediment fluxes that are due to earthflows, in agreement with historical rates at our field sites. Finally, our model predicts that steady state hillslope relief in earthflow‐prone terrain increases nonlinearly with the tectonic uplift rate, suggesting that the mean hillslope angle may record uplift rate in earthflow‐prone landscapes even at high uplift rates, where threshold slope processes normally limit further topographic development.


This is the publisher's final PDF. Originally published in Geophysical Research Letters ( and is copyrighted by American Geophysical Union (

*At the time of publication Adam M. Booth was affiliated with University of Oregon



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