Small mountainous rivers deliver disproportionately large quantities of suspended and dissolved solids to the global ocean, often in response to catastrophic events such as earthquakes or floods. Here we report on the impact of a major flood on the Choshui River, central-western Taiwan, generated by typhoon Mindulle, July 2–6, 2004, five years after the nearby Mw 7.6 Chichi earthquake. Water samples taken at 3-h intervals at three stations along main stem, as well as from two downriver tributaries, allow us to delineate the temporal and spatial variability in concentrations and fluxes of suspended and dissolved constituents within the middle and lower portions of the river in response to this flood. High suspended-sediment concentrations, some as high as 200 g/l, reflected the rapid erosion of landslide scars and debris deposits generated by super-typhoon Herb in 1996 and the 1999 Chichi earthquake. Dissolved-solid and suspended-sediment discharges totaled 0.22 and 70 million tons (mt), 50 mt of which were discharged in just two days. Particulate organic carbon (POC) discharge, most of which was pre-modern in age, was 195,000 t. More than half of the discharged water, POC and dissolved solids came from upriver, whereas about 70% of the suspended sediment and 60% of the dissolved nitrate came from two downriver tributaries, the Chenyoulan and Qingshui rivers. Spatial and temporal differences in the character and discharge of suspended and dissolved solids within and between rivers in the Choshui drainage basin reflect different geologies, landslide histories, the effects of human impact, and the abrupt draining of the Tsaoling landslide lake in the Qingshui basin, as well as the possible shifting of importance of groundwater vs. overland flow. Neither wind-blown pollutants nor sea salts appear to have contributed significantly to dissolved solid character or discharge. Sediment contribution from the landslides in the Chenyoulan basin generated by super-typhoon Herb and reactivated by the Chichi earthquake declined during Mindulle. In contrast, sediment erosion and discharge from the Qingshui basin, derived primarily from landslides generated during the Chichi earthquake and reactivated during Mindulle, remained elevated for several more years.
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