Ecohydrology Controls the Geomorphic Response to Climate Change

Omer Yetemen*, Patricia M. Saco, Erkan Istanbulluoglu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Erosion rate data worldwide show complex and contrasting dependencies to climate. Laboratory and numerical model experiments on abiotic landscapes suggest a positive response: Wetter (drier) shift in climate leads to an increase (decrease) in erosion rates with longer relaxation times under a drier climate. We performed eco-geomorphic landscape evolution model simulations driven by abrupt climate shift in a semiarid climate. With dynamic vegetation, the erosional response to climate shift was opposite to bare soil, variability of erosion rate lessened, and landscape relaxation time scales became insensitive to climate change direction. The spatial geomorphic response to a wetter climate was depositional in vegetated, incisional in barren landscapes, and got reversed with drier climate. A relationship between net erosion rate and mean landscape slope emerged, exhibiting a hysteresis loop. Our study offers insights to the interpretation of observed acceleration of erosion rates and increase mountain relief during Quaternary climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8852-8861
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©2019. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


The paper is theoretical, and no data are used. CHILD model is accessible at the CSDMS Model repository. We thank the editor (Bayani Cardenas), the associate editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments, which contributed to improving the previous version of this paper. P. M. Saco acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council through grants FT140100610 and DP140104178. E. Istanbulluoglu acknowledges support from NSF through grant NSF-EAR 0963858.

FundersFunder number
Australian Research CouncilDP140104178, NSF-EAR 0963858, FT140100610


    • climate change
    • ecohydrology
    • erosion
    • geomorphology
    • landscape
    • vegetation dynamics


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