Water erosion in the hilly areas of west China is the main process contributing to the overall sediment of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. The impact of gully erosion in total sediment output has been mostly neglected. Our objective was to assess the sediment production and sediment sources at both the hillslope and catchment scales in the Yangjuangou reservoir catchment of the Chinese Loess Plateau, northwest China. Distribution patterns in sediment production caused by water erosion on hills and gully slopes under different land use types were assessed using the fallout Cs-137 technique. The total sediment production from the catchment was estimated by using the sediment record in a reservoir. Sediment sources and dominant water erosion processes were determined by comparing Cs-137 activities and Pb-210/Cs-137 ratios in surface soils and sub-surface soils with those of sediment deposits from the reservoir at the outlet of the catchment. Results indicated that landscape location had the most significant impact on sediment production for cultivated hillslopes, followed by the terraced hillslope, and the least for the vegetated hillslope. Sediment production increased in the following order: top > upper > lower > middle for the cultivated hillslope, and top > lower > upper > middle for the terraced hillslope. The mean value of sediment production declined by 49% for the terraced hillslope and by 80% for the vegetated hillslope compared with the cultivated hillslope. Vegetated gully slope reduced the sediment production by 38% compared with the cultivated gully slope. These data demonstrate the effectiveness of terracing and perennial vegetation cover in controlling sediment delivery at a hillslope scale. Averaged Cs-137 activities and Pb-210/Cs-137 ratios in the 0-5 cm surface soil (2.22-4.70 Bq kg(-1) and 20.70-22.07, respectively) and in the 5-30 cm subsoil (2.60 Bq kg(-1) and 28.57, respectively) on the cultivated hills and gully slopes were close to those of the deposited sediment in the reservoir (3.37 Bq kg(-1) and 29.08, respectively). These results suggest that the main sediment sources in the catchment were from the surface soil and subsoil on the cultivated slopes, and that gully erosion is the dominant water erosion process contributing sediment in the study area. Changes in land use types can greatly affect sediment production from gully erosion. An increase in grassland and forestland by 42%, and a corresponding decrease in farmland by 46%, reduced sediment production by 31% in the catchment. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.