The fractal characteristics of drainage in the ten kongduis of the upper Yellow River were obtained using the box counting dimension, and the evolution stages of the watershed topography were defined by different ranges of the fractal dimensions of river networks (Dg). The results show that the fractal scaleless range of the Maobula River is 20–370 m based on a combination of artificial judgment, correlation coefficient test and fitting error. Other kongduis show good fractal characteristics in this fractal scaleless range as well. The box counting dimension can be used as a quantitative index of watershed topography fractal characteristics. The fractal dimension of stream networks is independent of the threshold contributing area used for extracting the drainage networks from the DEM. The values of Dg in the upper ten kongduis are in the range of 1.08–1.14. Both the runoff yield and the sediment yield are positively and linearly related with Dg. The positive relation between the sediment yield and Dg reflects the effect of landform features on sediment yield in the young and/or mature stages of landform evolution of the study area. By revising the critical value of Dg, the value of Dg of the basin in the young evolution stage is less than 1.06, while it is more than 1.06 for the basin in mature or old evolution stage. The upper ten kongduis are in the mature stage of landform evolution.
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Vol. 8 • No. 2