Under global warming, the permafrost-underlain headwater catchments of the Tibetan Plateau have undergone extensive permafrost degradation and changes in precipitation characteristics, which may substantially alter the riverine suspended sediment and riverine solute fluxes. However, these fluxes and their influencing factors in such catchments are poorly understood. We studied the suspended sediment and solute fluxes in a permafrost-underlain headwater catchment on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, based on comprehensive measurements of various water types in spring and summer in 2017. The daily flux of suspended sediment in spring was close to that in summer, but heavy rainfall events following a relatively long dry period made the largest contribution to the suspended sediment fluxes in summer. The riverine solute flux (in tons) was 12.6% and 27.8% of the suspended sediment flux (in tons) in spring and summer, indicating the dominating role of physical weathering in total material exportation. The snowmelt mobilized more suspended sediment fluxes and fewer solutes fluxes than summer rain, which may be due to the meltwater erosion and freeze–thaw processes in spring and the thicker thawed soil layer and better vegetation coverage in summer, and the longer contact time between the soil pore water and the soil and rock minerals after the thawing of frozen soil. The input of snowmelt driven by higher air temperatures in spring and the direct input of rainfall in summer would both act to dilute the stream water; however, the supra-permafrost water, with high solute contents, recharged the adjacent streamflow as frozen soil seeps and thus moderated the decrease in the riverine solute content during heavy snowmelt or rainfall events. With the permafrost degradation under future global warming, the solute fluxes in permafrost-underlain headwater catchments may increase, but the suspended sediment flux in spring may decrease due to the expansion of discontinuous permafrost areas and active layer thickness.
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