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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 02 Jan 2020

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Structural and functional control of surface-patch to hillslope-scale runoff and sediment connectivity in Mediterranean-dry reclaimed slope systems

Mariano Moreno-de-las-Heras1,2, Luis Merino-Martín3,4, Patricia M. Saco5, Tíscar Espigares6, Francesc Gallart1, and José M. Nicolau7 Mariano Moreno-de-las-Heras et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA, CSIC), 08034 Barcelona, Spain
  • 2Desertification Research Centre (CIDE, CSIC-UV-GV), 46113 Moncada (Valencia), Spain
  • 3AMAP, INRA, CIRAD, CNRS, IRD, University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France
  • 4CNRS, UMR CEFE, Montpellier, France
  • 5Civil, Surveying and Environmental Engineering, The University of Newcastle, 2308 Callaghan (NSW), Australia
  • 6Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, University of Alcalá, 28805 Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), Spain
  • 7Technical School and Environmental Sciences Institute, University of Zaragoza, 22071 Huesca, Spain

Abstract. Runoff and soil erosion in Mediterranean landscapes are affected by multiple factors that interact at a variety of spatial scales with variable degrees of connection. In these systems, connectivity has emerged as a useful concept for exploring the movement of runoff and sediments between landscape locations and across spatial scales. In this study, we examine the structural and functional controls of surface-patch to hillslope-scale runoff and sediment connectivity in three Mediterranean-dry reclaimed mining slope systems that have different long-term development levels of vegetation and rill networks. Structural connectivity, or the extent to which surface patches that facilitate the production of runoff/sediments are physically linked to one another, was assessed using a flowpath analysis of coupled vegetation distribution and surface topography. Functional connectivity, determined as the spatial continuity of surface fluxes across scales, was further explored using the ratio of surface-patch to hillslope-scale observations of runoff and sediment yield for 21 monitored hydrologically active rainfall events. Event-based (functional) runoff connectivity was found to be dynamically controlled by antecedent precipitation conditions and rainfall intensity and, at the same time, was strongly modulated by the structural connectivity of the slopes. In the absence of rill networks, both runoff and sediments for all events were largely redistributed within the analysed systems, resulting in low functional connectivity. Sediment connectivity increased with rainfall intensity, particularly in the presence of rill networks where active incision under high intensity storm conditions led to large non-linear increases in sediment yield from the surface-patch to the hillslope scales. Overall, our results demonstrate the usefulness of applying structural and functional connectivity metrics for practical applications, and for assessing the complex links and controlling factors that regulate the transference of both runoff and sediment yield across different landscape scales.

Mariano Moreno-de-las-Heras et al.
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Mariano Moreno-de-las-Heras et al.
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Short summary
This study shifts from present discussions of the connectivity theory to the practical application of the connectivity concept for the analysis of runoff and sediment dynamics in Mediterranean-dry slope systems. Overall, our results provide evidence of the feasibility of using the connectivity concept for understanding how the spatial distribution of vegetation and micro-topography (including rills) interact with rainfall dynamics to generate spatially continuous runoff and sediment fluxes.
This study shifts from present discussions of the connectivity theory to the practical...