Evolution of Hydro-Geomorphic Connectivity in an Experimental Catchment
Abstract:During initial phases of landform evolution, the surface of sediment bodies is commonly not yet equilibrated with the environmental conditions and is thus liable to rapid changes by accelerated geomorphic activity. Hydro-geomorphic processes acting during these early development phases often lead to the emergence of surface structures that constitute the boundary conditions for further ecosystem development, and of linear erosion features that act as pathways for water, solute and sediment transport, and thus can increase the system’s connectivity.
Studies on initial landform evolution are often limited to relatively small-scale experiments or rely on modeling exercises. Larger-scale experiments can be carried out in constructed hydrological catchments with well-known and documented initial conditions. The central aim of this work was to describe the hydro-geomorphic surface structure evolution during the initial years of ecosystem development, its dependence on initial and boundary conditions; and on its relations to hydro-geomorphic connectivity. The data are from the 6-ha, constructed hydrological catchment ‘Hühnerwasser’.
Hydro-geomorphic development was quantified using a combined analysis of digital elevation models and aerial photographs. Empirical results were compared with those obtained with a numerical landscape evolution model. Phases of rill network growth, contraction and stabilization could be characterized. Results show influences of initial morphology, precipitation characteristics, and developing structure-process-interactions on rill network geometry and connectivity increase in the catchment. The results suggest that phases of hydro-geomorphic surface structure evolution can be related to the spatial organization of surface flow patterns during initial phases of landform development.