Landscape evolution theory suggests that climate sets the scale of landscape dissection by modulating the competition between diffusive processes that sculpt convex hillslopes and advective processes that carve concave valleys. However, the link between the relative dominance of hillslope and valley transport processes and landscape scale is difficult to demonstrate in natural landscapes due to the episodic nature of erosion. Here, we report results from laboratory experiments combining diffusive and advective processes in an eroding landscape. We demonstrate that rainsplash-driven disturbances in our experiments are a robust proxy for hillslope transport, such that increasing hillslope transport efficiency decreases drainage density. Our experimental results demonstrate how the coupling of climate-driven hillslope- and valley-forming processes, such as bioturbation and runoff, dictates the scale of eroding landscapes.
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© 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.