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Spatio-temporal variation of sediment transport in the Selenga River Basin, Mongolia and Russia

Abstract

Many Asian rivers have been intensively used to boost economic growth, resulting in sudden and drastic changes in sediment transport patterns. However, a few rivers are still undisturbed. The present paper considers the unregulated Selenga River and its basin, located in Russia and Mongolia. The river contributes to 50 % of the total inflow to Lake Baikal. Pending scientific challenges include the quantification of sediment loads and erosion–deposition patterns along the Selenga River system, the understanding of suspended particulate matter composition and the importance of peak flow events for total sediment discharge and heavy metal transport. Field data and hydraulic modeling converge on showing that peak flow events during spring and summer contribute to the main part (70–80 %) of the annual sediment and pollution loads in upstream parts of the basin. The Selenga River carries mostly silt and sand. The average particle size differs by a factor of four between summer floods and base flow periods. The low amount of particulate organic matter (ranging between 1 and 16 % in the studied rivers) is consistent with the significant role of sediments originating from mining areas and in-channel sources. The bed load transport in the downstream part of the river basin is high (up to 50 % of the total transport), and channel storage plays an important role in the total sediment transport to Lake Baikal. Reported statistically significant multi-decadal declines in sediment fluxes in the downstream Selenga River can be attributed to the abandonment of cultivated lands and (most likely) to changing hydroclimatic factors.

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Acknowledgments

The work at Selenga River is implemented under support of Russian-Mongolian complex biological expedition RAS-MAS, Russian Ministry of Science and Education project “Development of scientific basics of monitoring and forecasting of the Selenga River Basin for transboundary transport of pollutants control and their intake to Baikal lake”, Russian geographical society grant “Expedition Selenga-Baikal” and Russian Fund for Basic Research projects No. 12-05-33090, 12-05-00348-a and 12-05-00069-a and President grant MK-2857.2012.5. Field visits were also financially supported by a travel grant from the Faculty of Science, Stockholm University. In addition, we gratefully acknowledge the support of information from Eugene Simonov, Rivers without boundaries Coalition coordinator, and Dr. Endon Garmaev from Buryat Institute of Nature management. We gratefully thank Dr. Philipp Theuring from Helmholtz Centre of Environmental Research (UFZ) for valuable comments.

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R. Chalov, S., Jarsjö, J., Kasimov, N.S. et al. Spatio-temporal variation of sediment transport in the Selenga River Basin, Mongolia and Russia. Environ Earth Sci 73, 663–680 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-014-3106-z

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Keywords

  • Sediment transport
  • Sediment budget
  • Transboundary rivers
  • Suspended particulate matter
  • Lake Baikal