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1 November 2008 Rocky Headwaters in the Dolomites, Italy: Field Observations and Topographic Analysis
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Abstract

Rock outcrops cover large areas of alpine headwaters and are entrenched by chutes and couloirs, which are controlled by faults in bedrock. These widespread landforms play an important role in delivering sediment to lower basin slopes. High-resolution topographical data from LiDAR surveys allow investigation of morphometric characteristics and sediment transport processes in these features. Using aerial photo interpretation, field surveys, and topographic analyses of LiDAR data, this paper quantifies the morphological characteristics of rocky couloirs and their drainage basins, and the relationship between these features and the structural setting, in a study area in the Dolomites (northeastern Italy). Rock basins are characterized by small sizes (surface area < 0.066 km2) and high average basin slopes (up to 2.1 m m−1). The analysis of contributing area and local slope outlines the difference between these rock basins, and even smaller and steeper rock faces entrenched by very shallow chutes, which were defined as interbasin areas. We consider rocky couloirs and rock basins in the headwaters of the Dolomites to be part of the channel network, since channeled flow occurs in the couloirs during storms. High-intensity rainstorms trigger debris flows as evidenced from local scouring, especially in the lower parts of the couloirs. The longitudinal profiles of the couloirs are overall linear, but the high-resolution data display distinct high-slope and low-slope stretches forming steps, that may function as localized sources and sinks for debris flows. The cross-sectional widths of the couloirs do not appear related to upslope area; this may be due to both structural control on cross-sectional geometry and complex erosion of the couloir by debris flows.

Lorenzo Marchi, Giancarlo Dalla Fontana, Marco Cavalli, and Fabrizio Tagliavini "Rocky Headwaters in the Dolomites, Italy: Field Observations and Topographic Analysis," Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 40(4), 685-694, (1 November 2008). https://doi.org/10.1657/1523-0430(07-037)[MARCHI]2.0.CO;2
Accepted: 1 May 2008; Published: 1 November 2008
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