(Dis)connectivity in hydro-geomorphic systems: emerging concepts and their applications

Hydro-geomorphic connectivity has emerged as a significant conceptual framework for understanding the transfer of surface water and materials (e.g., sediment, plant propagules, and nutrients) through landscapes. The concept has had particular success in the field of catchment hydrology and fluvial geomorphology, but has also been employed in, for example, studies of soil erosion and hydrochory, and in neurosciences and social sciences. Connectivity as applied in various disciplines can be a transformative concept in understanding complex systems, allowing analyses of how such systems behave in terms of scaling, catastrophic/phase transitions, critical nodes, emergence and self-organization. However, recent research also highlights the widespread nature of natural longitudinal disconnectivity in river systems, such as beaver dams, log jams, lakes and wetlands. These and other forms of natural disconnectivity can have large spatial and temporal implications on ecological, geomorphic, hydrological and biogeochemical processes through buffering water and material fluxes. We aim to create a diverse interdisciplinary session that reflects a broad range of research seeking to illustrate the role of connectivity on various spatial scales as well as implications of and temporal and spatial variability of disconnectivity. We hope to use the session to develop a discussion of the dual roles of connectivity and disconnectivity to generate a basis for an integrated framework to be applied across the sciences in hydro-geomorphic systems and for managing complex systems and guiding river restoration.

Co-organized by HS13, co-sponsored by IAG
Convener: Ronald PöpplECSECS | Co-conveners: Lina Polvi SjöbergECSECS, Laura Turnbull-Lloyd, Anthony Parsons
vPICO presentations
| Thu, 29 Apr, 11:00–12:30 (CEST)

Session assets

Session materials

vPICO presentations: Thu, 29 Apr

Chairpersons: Ronald Pöppl, Lina Polvi Sjöberg, Laura Turnbull-Lloyd
Janet Hooke

Connectivity provides a powerful framework for analysis of fluvial system functioning at a range of scales but identification of disconnectivity and application to management presents challenges. Three stages of evaluation are suggested, depending on the purpose of study and aims of management, and on the underlying strategy and approach. An overall premise of management is assumed of working with nature and allowing or enabling the system to function as sustainably as possible.

The first stage entails identification of the connectivity status and the disconnectors in the system. This includes analysis of what is being disconnected (water, fine sediment, coarse sediment, pollutants), under what conditions and when the disconnector operates, and the types and locations of disconnector. Various methods can be used but present modelling has deficiencies and requires field validation. That presents challenges in recognition of disconnectors across a range of spatial and temporal scales, but recommended strategies are discussed. 

A second stage for management is to analyse to what extent the present functioning is influenced and controlled by human actions, such as land use and structures, and how it departs from a more natural or less disturbed functioning.  This can then provide a platform for developing a strategy that amends past disturbances and moves the functioning towards identified management goals. However, these goals can differ and may be in conflict for different components of the same system.  For example, for many ecological restoration goals the strategy may be to remove disconnectors such as dams and weirs, to allow greater connectivity of species, e.g. fish. On the other hand, if the problem to be addressed is the increased soil erosion or flooding caused by human disturbance then the goal may be to increase the disconnectivity and reduce fluxes through the system.  Our research has proposed that use of vegetation is a sustainable and adaptable method of fulfilling this goal, and discusses how analysis of connectivity and identification of key points for disconnection allows the development of spatial strategies for management.

How to cite: Hooke, J.: Connected or disconnected: functioning and management of (dis)connectivity in fluvial systems., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1143,, 2021.

Cherie Westbrook and David Cooper

Beavers profoundly alter streams by building dams. Beaver dams change how water, sediment, nutrients and energy flow through stream corridors enhancing both habitat diversity and landscape connectivity. Humans are captivated by learning from nature and trying to mimic it, especially in human-degraded environments. There is considerable eagerness for using beaver dam analogues (BDAs), also called simulated beaver structures, as low-tech, low cost solutions for restoring the functioning of degraded streams where beavers are not present and cannot survive. The use of BDAs in stream enhancement projects, especially in the western United States, is outpacing the research, leading to questions about whether BDAs do, in fact, yield similar ecosystem-scale effects as natural beaver dams. We review the different names used for BDAs, discuss the many ways these structures can be built and how different types function, and how they compare to real beaver dams. We conclude the talk by exploring what we can expect from various types of BDAs in the short and long term and whether these structures can lead to stream and riparian zone restoration that can facilitate the return of beavers. 

How to cite: Westbrook, C. and Cooper, D.: Do Beaver Dam Analogues Really Mimic Beaver Dams?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9274,, 2021.

Unnati Patel, Manudeo Singh, and Rajiv Sinha

Chilika is a large brackish water lagoon in the eastern coast of India and received the distinction of a Ramsar wetland in 1971. It was put under ‘The Montreux Record’ in 1993 because of large scale degradation, but the remarkable restoration activities led to regaining its Ramsar status in 2002. The Chilika receives an influx of saline water from the Bay of Bengal and that of freshwater from the terrestrial systems from its catchment as well as from a distributary channel of Mahanadi River. Having these two very different types of water influx is a characteristic feature of this wetland which defines its biophysical as well as hydrogeomorphic attributes. There are at least three connectivity-related factors controlling the physical attributes of Chilika Lagoon – its connectivity with the sea, the lagoon-catchment connectivity, and lagoon-river connectivity. In the present work, we have assessed the lagoon-catchment hydrological connectivity for 30 years (1990-2020) by calculating connectivity indices (IC) annually. Using the Connectivity Response Unit (CRU) approach, we evaluated the dynamic hydrological connectivity of the lagoon with its catchment as well. The ICs are calculated as a function of topographic and land-cover factors. Since grasslands and shrubs are the primary land-cover in the catchment, we used NDVI to model the vegetation-induced impedance to the hydrological connectivity. The algebraic sum (IC_sum) of the IC values of each pixel of the catchment in a given year was used to compare the overall connectivity at the inter-annual scale. Since connectivity increases with increasing IC values, a higher IC_sum represents a relatively higher hydrological connectivity. The IC_sum is showing a strong decreasing trend with time, which implies that the overall hydrological connectivity of the lagoon with its catchment is decreasing since the 1990s. Further, the CRU assessment has demarcated the specific regions of the catchment which are showing dynamicity in the hydrological connectivity. As expected, the CRUs with high connectivity potential are in proximity to the lagoon. Nevertheless, there are large patches of CRUs with increasing connectivity in the distal parts of the catchment as well. A total of 13.5% area of the catchment is showing either high or increasing connectivity pattern, however, an overwhelming 67.6% of the catchment is exhibiting either low or decreasing connectivity pattern. In 14% area of the catchment, the connectivity was high in the past, but it is diminishing with time, whereas in 20% of the catchment, the low connectivity is intensifying. The changing lagoon-catchment hydrological connectivity is expected to impact the biophysical and hydrogeomorphic characteristics of the Chilika wetland by impacting the freshwater inflows in a brackish water lagoon such as the Chilika, and therefore, this is an important management consideration for the wetland.

How to cite: Patel, U., Singh, M., and Sinha, R.: Evaluating the dynamic hydrological connectivity of a coastal wetland: an application of connectivity response unit (CRU) approach on Chilika Lagoon, Odisha, India, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4180,, 2021.

Vittoria Scorpio, Marco Cavalli, Francesco Comiti, and Stefan Steger

This work presents the results of the basin-scale analysis of sediment connectivity between hillslopes and the main channel during an extreme event in a mountain catchment. The Stolla basin (South Tyrol, Italy) was affected by a high-magnitude event in August 2017, during which the channel experienced widening and bed level changes and more than 600 debris flows, and landslides occurred in the basin.

Hillslope and channel processes were mapped and characterized by using geomorphological analysis of orthophotos and pre- and post-event Digital Terrain Models (DTMs). Mass wasting process connectivity was derived by combining field survey evidence and GIS analysis. The coupling between the debris flows and landslides and the main channel was also evaluated by applying the Index of sediment connectivity (IC) by Cavalli et al. (2013). Binary logistic regression and the receiver operating characteristic curve was used to define thresholds that allow to discriminate connected from disconnected debris flows and landslides, based on IC values with respect to the main channel of the Stolla stream.

First results indicate that the Stolla’s post-event channel width was up to five times the pre-event width. Channel widening occurred mainly through bank erosions, removals of riparian vegetation and over bank depositions.  Widening appeared to be accompanied by channel bed aggradation up to 1 m or incision up to -2 m. Depending on the morphological characteristics of the channel and of the valley, sediments were eroded from the banks, from the bed or were delivered by connected debris flows, landslides, and toe erosion processes. Statistical analyses indicate a high efficiency of the logistic regression model and the associated threshold to separate connected from disconnected debris flows and landslides using the IC as a predictor variable.

How to cite: Scorpio, V., Cavalli, M., Comiti, F., and Steger, S.: Unravelling sediment connectivity during an extreme event in an Alpine catchment, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4306,, 2021.

Daniel Caviedes-Voullième, Ilhan Özgen-Xian, and Christoph Hinz

Surface runoff (dis)connectivity manifests across scales, spawning from different spatial flow patterns, which are dominated by both topography (structural connectivity) and hydrodynamics (dynamic connectivity). How the connectivity builds and evolves throughout rainfall events is integrated into observable hydrological signatures (namely, hydrographs and water balance). 

In this contribution we explore the connectivity properties of runoff generation processes across spatial scales. We revisit three case studies of runoff generation during rainfall, numerically simulated by solving shallow-water equations. This approach provides a full description of the hydrodynamic flow fields, allowing to study both the connectivity properties, as well as the domain-integrated hydrological signatures (namely, hydrographs) that build up in response to flow phenomena. 

We discuss and link the runoff generation processes arising from (i) runoff generation at the plot scale (20 m2 at cm resolution) with explicit microtopographies, (ii) runoff generation at the hillslope or first-order catchment scale with overland and (ephemeral) rill flows in the Hühnerwasser experimental catchment (4000 m2 at m resolution), and (iii) runoff generation at the catchment scale in the Lower Triangle catchment (15 km2 at m resolution).

The detailed study of runoff generation dynamics highlights the needs to use time-evolving connectivity metrics, which are particularly useful to understand spatiotemporal model output. We computed the number of disconnected flooded clusters (and Euler characteristic) as the main connectivity metric.

The results of the three different systems suggest similar qualitative behaviours of connectivity across scales, from plot to catchment scales, and therefore also offer the possible use of connectivity to understand how fluxes are re-scaled across the landscape, and as a multiscale indicator of hydrological function. The relationship between the connectivity response at a given scale (e.g., plot) and the hydrological signature observed at the next larger scale (e.g., hillslope) may lead into a hierarchical relationship of connectivities and signatures, in which the time-continuous nature of the connectivity signal may give rise to non-linear and threshold behaviours in the larger scale signature. 

Additionally, in the context of assessing model quality, connectivity is a feature of the natural system which models (and modellers) should strive to ensure. In this sense, we argue that model formulations, meshing (including resolution/topology and preprocessing/smoothing of the terrain model) and parameterisations should be evaluated not only using integrated signatures (e.g., water balance, hydrographs) or point data (water depth, velocities) but also using (dis)connectivity metrics. In this way, it is possible to evaluate to which extent a model and its setup can simulate natural flow paths and landscape functions.

How to cite: Caviedes-Voullième, D., Özgen-Xian, I., and Hinz, C.: Surface runoff connectivity across scales: revisiting three simulation studies, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5004,, 2021.

Stephanie Natho

Floodplains are transitional ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, endangered and adapted to inundation by floods. Flood magnitude, hydrologic connectivity and elevation define the extent of an active floodplain. In past centuries, active floodplains in Germany were reduced by up to 90% of their original size – in terms of the area that is statistically inundated at least once every 100 years. But, does this area reflect the area relevant for floodplain ecosystems and for evaluating their functioning and the services they provide? Analyzing two scenarios of Flood Hazard Maps (FHM), a German-wide comparison including 78 rivers was carried out to quantify the extent of floods with statistical occurrence intervals of 5 to 25 years, so-called ‘frequent floods’ (T-frequent), and intervals of 100 years, or ‘medium floods’ (T-medium), as well as selected characteristics. The comparison was carried out on the river (basin) level, and based on hydrological catchments. By additionally analyzing measured discharges of relevant gauges from the past 20 years, real inundation was quantified. As a result, even in exceptional wet years these ‘frequent floods’ occur for a few days per year or not at all. The extent of the two FHM scenarios differs for most areas: Only at 13% of gauging units was the T-frequent inundation extent similar to that of T-medium. Furthermore, within T-medium the land use of arable land doubles and that of urban areas more than doubles, showing how disconnected the T-medium floodplain is in many parts. On the other hand, 25% of grasslands are Natura 2000 meadows occurring within the borders of T-frequent but only 6% are Natura 2000 meadows outside these borders, indicating the effect of connectivity and thus inundation, making these habitats valuable in terms of biodiversity mainly in T-frequent. This study provides evidence that, especially for regulatory services like water purification, water retention and climate mitigation, T-frequent might be more suitable for consideration. With more frequent flooding, less intensively used areas are connected more often, holding back water, nutrients and sediments – in addition to comparatively more areas relevant for nature conservation. For flood protection and also as a refuge for flora and fauna and for connection of habitats, of course the extent of disastrous 100-yr floods are important.

How to cite: Natho, S.: Connectivity of floodplains in Germany – which floodplain extent is relevant?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5265,, 2021.

Manuel López-Vicente, Joaquín Montenegro-Rodríguez, María del Carmen Antolín, and Yolanda Gogorcena

The ability of identifying –based on numerical analysis– disconnected areas –in terms of overland flow pathways– depends on the digital elevation model (DEM) resolution, type of flow accumulation algorithm and DEM accuracy. On the other hand, tillage practices (in lowlands) and terrain preparation (at any slope gradient) may condition the occurrence of permanent/ temporal disconnected areas. In this study, the effect of DEM resolution and the presence of a drainage ditch and forest trails on the number, location and characteristics of disconnected areas is evaluated in a steep (mean slope gradient of 29%) farmland area of the Spanish Pyrenees. A new vineyard plantation (3785 m2 and 5120 m2 including the transit area; espalier system) and its upslope drainage area are evaluated. This site is located near Barbenuta village (Huesca province), at high elevation (1184-1260 m a.s.l.). Abandoned terraced fields and patches of natural vegetation (trees and shrubs) occupy the upslope area, where several forest trails cross from east to west. To protect soil against water soil erosion, farmers built a drainage ditch (total length of 137 m; ca. 0.30 m width; ca. 0.15 m depth) upslope the vineyard boundary, which minimizes runoff entrance into the field. A professional drone (senseFly© eBee X) was used to obtain –after point cloud processing– Structure-from-Motion (SfM)-derived DEMs at different spatial resolution, namely: 1, 0.5, 0.2, 0.1 and 0.05 m. We used combined information of the DEMs before and after filling the local sinks. As expected, the number (n=34, 341, 1079, 1272 and 1907) and size (mean=500, 60, 21, 18 and 12 m2; median=68, 15, 5, 4 and 2 m2; σ=920, 178, 69, 71 and 49 m2) of sub-basins increased and decreased, respectively, with decreasing the pixel size, due to fractal geometry and higher influence of micro-topography components (e.g. soil roughness, random local sinks) –higher ratios of 'residual topography (σ of slope) / pixel size': 0.2 (at coarser resolution), 1.8, 20.3, 113.6 and 636.8 (at finer resolution)–. The total area also varied with the different DEMs: 17010, 20514, 22398, 22852 and 22807 m2. The number (n=21, 292, 903, 928 and 1283) and area (41, 143, 118, 58 and 44 m2) of disconnected areas increased and decreased, respectively, with decreasing the pixel size, representing 0.24%, 0.70%, 0.53%, 0.25% and 0.19% of the total drainage area. Similar differences were observed in other topographic metrics like the drainage-boundary perimeter and maximum flow length. These results prove the impossibility of defining a unique overland flow pattern. Further research should be focused on the role of runoff depth and how the effect of man-made landscape elements (drainage ditch, forest trail) and practices (tillage) on disconnectivity may depend on rainfall depth and intensity, and indirectly on plant growth.

How to cite: López-Vicente, M., Montenegro-Rodríguez, J., Antolín, M. C., and Gogorcena, Y.: Overland flow (dis)connectivity in a new vineyard under steep slope conditions in the Spanish Pyrenees: Effect of DEM resolution and terrain preparation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7287,, 2021.

Marco Tangi, Simone Bizzi, Kirstie Fryirs, and Andrea Castelletti

Sediment transport and connectivity are key factors for the functioning of fluvial eco-systems, and variations to these drivers deeply affect the geomorphology of the river system. Given that lags often occur in river systems, these changes may appear displaced in time and space from the disturbances that generated them. Modelling sediment (dis)connectivity and its reaction to anthropic pressures with a network-scale perspective is thus necessary to increase the understanding of river processes, to quantify real impacts and estimate future evolutionary trajectories. The CASCADE model (Schmitt et al., 2016) is a sediment connectivity model developed to address this type of research question: it combines concepts of network modelling with empirical sediment transport formulas to quantitatively describe sediment (dis)connectivity in river networks.

In this work, we present a new version of the CASCADE model which expands on the original model by featuring a dynamic simulation of sediment transport processes in the network (D-CASCADE). This new framework describes sediment connectivity in term of transfer rates through space and time. It takes into consideration multiple factors that can affect sediment transport, such as spatial and temporal variations in water discharge and river geomorphological features (i.e., river gradient and width), different sediment grainsizes, sediment entraining and deposition from and in the river bed and interactions between materials coming from different sources.

We apply the new D-CASCADE on the Bega River, New South Wales, Australia, which due to anthropic alterations post European colonization after 1850 including large-scale deforestation, removal of riparian vegetation and swamp drainage, has experienced significant alteration to the character and behaviour of streams, widespread channel erosion and massive sediment mobilization (Fryirs and Brierley, 2001). Our objective is to reproduce the historical sediment transfers that occurred across the network and associated river reach sediment budgets. First, we reconstructed the pre-settlement geomorphic features of the river network and the past hydrology from historical observations and expert-based reconstruction, and then modelled the sediment transport processes in the network in the last two centuries introducing the different drivers of change observed historically in the proper chronological sequence. Due to the uncertainty in the reconstruction of the historical conditions, multiple scenarios have been used.

The D-CASCADE model successfully reproduces the timing and magnitude of the major sediment transfers of the last two centuries in the Bega River network from headwaters swamps to lowland river reaches and associated channel geomorphic adjustments. Using the knowledge acquired by these historical simulations, the model was also applied to provide estimations on future trajectories of sediment transport and sediment budgets at the river reach scale.

With this research, we demonstrate the potential of the new D-CASCADE model to simulate and quantify at the network-scale sediment transport events generating information on sediment budget transfers from a single event to historical trajectories of the last centuries. Such knowledge paves the way to aid predictions of future impacts of basin-scale management measures and can support decision-making when designing sediment management strategies or river restoration initiatives.

How to cite: Tangi, M., Bizzi, S., Fryirs, K., and Castelletti, A.: A dynamic, network scale sediment (dis)connectivity model to reconstruct historical sediment transfers and river reach sediment budgets, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8668,, 2021.

Josh Wolstenholme, Christopher Skinner, David Milan, and Daniel Parsons

Natural flood management (NFM) promotes the sustainable enhancement of natural fluvial processes to reduce flooding (SEPA, 2015; Wilkinson et al., 2019), and is increasingly popular for use by community groups, contractors and governments (Kay et al., 2019). Reintroduction of wood to a river channel is a popular form of NFM often achieved through seeding natural logjams, or with an emphasis on engineering through installing woody dams (WDs). WDs are currently installed or being installed in catchments in an effort to reduce flood risk, through hydrograph attenuation, increase biodiversity and improve geomorphic heterogeneity (Wenzel et al., 2014; Burgess-Gamble et al., 2017; Grabowski et al., 2019). A further objective is to emulate the effect of natural wood found in river channels by partially, or completely, blocking the channel to accelerate the recruitment of natural wood as part of the natural wood cycle (Addy & Wilkinson, 2016).

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of NFM, however, the hydrogeomorphic effects of WDs are less well understood (Dadson et al., 2017). There is little scientific underpinning concerning the long-term impact of these features upon hydrogeomorphology at reach and catchment-scales. Very few numerically based studies consider the influence of sediment transport on WDs, and how changes in local bed morphology influence their effectiveness. Most NFM research to date has focused upon modelling the effectiveness of local NFM measures in small catchments (<10 km2) (Dadson et al., 2017), with less work evident at larger spatial and temporal scales (Kay et al., 2019; Wilkinson et al., 2019).

There is a need for a verified tool that is able to represent WDs accounting for geomorphic processes and interactions between the dams and morphodynamics, different design specifications of dams, and changing efficacy due to geomorphic evolution. We present the new CAESAR-Lisflood (Coulthard et al., 2013) “Working with Natural Processes” toolkit, capable of representing WDs across a digital experimental environment. Global sensitivity testing was conducted using the Morris method (Morris, 1991) to assess the sensitivity of five aspects of the toolkit, and their potentially influences on geomorphology and flood risk reduction.

How to cite: Wolstenholme, J., Skinner, C., Milan, D., and Parsons, D.: Geomorphological numerical modelling of woody dams in CAESAR-Lisflood, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9636,, 2021.

André Branco and Jonas Souza

Land use on rural drylands has as its occupation process developing a hydric security and transportations infrastructure system. Dryland tropical systems present fluvial hydrological regime controlled by precipitation inputs, with few or none springs, showing ephemeral and intermittent rivers. Floodway crossings are a widespread infrastructure, on the countryside road network, to cross small creeks, especially intermittent and ephemeral rivers during the rainy seasons. Floodways are concrete or rock block structure, with or without culverts, that allows the river flow goes through or over it. They are part of a set of small longitudinal impediments, like small earth dams and check-dams, and can significantly impact the connectivity, notably by the high density of these impediments on rural areas. This research analysed the effect of floodways crossing on longitudinal connectivity of intermittent small rivers, focusing on morphological and sedimentological impacts in Brazilian Dryland. We analysed four floodways crossing with culverts installed on sandbed intermittent rivers, with upstream catchment are from 10 Km² to 130 Km². The analyses were based on rainfall data, lateral and longitudinal topographic profiles, generate by UAV surveys; and sedimentological samples of upstream and downstream of each structure. The Effective Catchment Area (ECA) was the first step to understand that several dams, and other longitudinal disconnect elements, decrease the ECA sharply, from 2 Km² to 38 Km² of the floodways analysed. Consequently, it affects the magnitude and frequency of water and especially sediment that reaches the floodway crossings. The results reveal the increase of upstream local base level, affecting 500 to 1000 meters, and coarse sediment retention, which is 1.7 to 3.6 times the standard percentage of very coarse sand and gravel. The retained sediment can be re-worked (reconnect) by extreme rainfall/discharges events, recurrence 0,22/year, and when the silting surface reaches the culvert level. The evolution of the upstream silting process is controlled not only by construction age but also by ECA spatiality and changes, and frequency and magnitude of rainfall/discharges events. The results discussion enabled developing an evolution model based on four stages: Installation, Adaptation, Coexistence, and Silting up. The Installation stage is the building process that locally deconfigures the channel morphology and, sometimes, inserts unfamiliar materials on channels. The Adaptation Stage starts with the first flow events that recreate a channel morphology but affected by the floodway, with the beginning of enhanced upstream sedimentation and downstream erosion. The Coexistence stage the disconnectivity effect is evident with the upstream sedimentation moving upstream. The downstream erosion creates a pool, expanding the floodway/riverbed height gap, and progressively increasing the vertical incision downstream. Lastly, when the sedimentation reaches the culvert level or the floodway, sediment retention decreases, and most of the transported sediment overpass the impediment. The frequency and magnitude of flow events control the time to progress through each stage, remembering the ECA analysis importance over space and time. This proposed model that still on initial development stage can help the integrative environmental management on areas impacted by widespread small longitudinal impediments.

How to cite: Branco, A. and Souza, J.: Effect of small impediments on channel morphology – intermittent rivers in Brazilian drylands., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13534,, 2021.

Bruno Henrique Abatti, Franciele Zanandrea, Leonardo Rodolfo Paul, and Gean Paulo Michel

The hillslope-channel coupling has a fundamental role in sediment control of a catchment, especially when the catchment is prone to mass movements. Debris flow is a type of mass movements that provides an important sediment contribution to a channel, which is influenced by hillslope-channel coupling degree. This coupling can be represented by the connectivity, a concept utilized as an approach to many queries regarding water and/or sediment transport through methodologies which relates a river with its drainage area. In this regard, this study addresses the representation of debris flow in terms of connectivity. We applied a debris flow computational modelling (DFM) and an index of connectivity (IC) in Mascarada catchment, south Brazil, where hundreds of mass movements were triggered in 2017, to evaluate the potential, limitations and capacity of IC to represent patterns of mass movements’ connectivity. The IC is calculated for each cell of the catchment’s digital elevation model (DEM) (horizontal resolution of 1 m) in relation to the drainage network. Therefore, the IC represents the lateral connectivity (hillslope-channel) and its capacity to mobilize sediment to the channel. The DFM utilizes the Multiple Flow Direction to distribute volumes of a fluid with a determined kinematic viscosity through a slope, originated from initiation areas with a depth pre-determined by the user. The model utilizes uniform and steady flow solutions for Newtonian fluid, considering a rectangular channel. The DFM simulated the observed debris flow reasonably well, with an accuracy of 68%. However, since the simulation reached the channel and carried the volumes beyond the observed debris flow scar, it presented an overestimation area of 65%. When relation the simulated debris flow paths with the IC, we observed a superposition between those paths and high IC values. Also, the results showed a pixel-by-pixel positive linear correlation between high flow depths (representing convergence of flow) and IC, with values varying from 0,1 and 0,5. Only one of the nine simulated debris flow did not reach the channel and it had the lowest mean IC value along its flow path. Simulated debris flow that reached the channel showed high hillslope-channel connectivity, denoting the important role of high magnitude sediment transport events in sediment connectivity. Therefore, the IC was capable to represent and indicate patterns of debris flow that reached the channel. Though, the results also indicated that IC must be carefully interpreted when employed to understand debris flow and related processes – some areas have high fluid depth due to low connectivity, but others have high depth in response of convergence of flow due to highly connected areas. In this regard, an integration of connectivity and debris flow modelling tools can by an important step to understand sediment connectivity and to represent patterns of high magnitude mass movements events.

How to cite: Abatti, B. H., Zanandrea, F., Paul, L. R., and Michel, G. P.: Relationship between sediment connectivity and debris flow in a mountain catchment, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13885,, 2021.

Gaurav Kailash Sonkar and Kumar Gaurav

The Ganga-Brahmaputra river system in the Himalayan Foreland supports diverse aquatic fauna. Decades of flow regulation through dams and barrages have affected their habitat suitability. To evaluate the impacts of large barrages on the morphology and habitat ecology we studied two different reaches (middle and lower) of the Ganga River. These reaches are the habitat of the endangered Ganga River dolphin (Platanista gangetica). In a reach in the middle Ganga between Bijnor and Narora barrage, a reported rise in dolphin population has been documented. In contrast, near the Farakka barrage in the lower reach of the Ganga River, a significant decline in the dolphin population has been observed.

We use Corona and time-series Landsat satellite images along with flow discharge data to assess the morphological and ecological impact of the barrages. In middle Ganga, the dolphin habitat is isolated between the Bijnor and Narora barrage where the minimum flow is available throughout the year for the dolphins to thrive.  On the other hand, in the lower Ganga, contrasting impacts are observed in the proximity (upstream/downstream) of the Farakka barrage. In the downstream, reduction in water (by one-third in the pre-monsoon discharge) and sediment discharge has decoupled the channel belt to its floodplain resulting in a loss of lateral connectivity. The presence of minimum flow between the Bijnor and Narora barrage has aided the dolphin population rise while the loss of lateral connectivity and excess siltation at the Farakka barrage has made the river reach unsuitable for habitation.   

How to cite: Sonkar, G. K. and Gaurav, K.: Impact assessment of structural barriers and flow regulation on the Ganga River morphology and ecology, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14018,, 2021.

Manudeo Narayan Singh, Shobhit Singh, Arnab Laha, and Kanchan Mishra

The concept of geomorphic connectivity is being widely used since last two decades to understand and explain the various earth surface processes and dynamics. Its applicability to understand inter- and cross-scale process-response systems is now well established. In the present work, we have evaluated the applicability of the geomorphic connectivity framework (Singh et al., 2020, ESPL) for managing and mitigating various geological hazards. For an effective hazard mitigation and management planning, we need to know (a) source of hazard, (b) hazard propagation pathways, (c) probable affected areas, and (d) identification of escape routes/pathways. The connectivity concept can be effectively utilised to satisfy aforementioned requirements. For example, sediment and hydrological connectivity can be used to evaluate the potential pathways, identify sources and affected areas, and to assess return periods of fluvial-related hazards such as debris flow and riverine flash floods. Similarly, the potential sites of landslide, stream congestions (and hence, flash flood)- can be identified by evaluating the channel-slope sediment connectivity and longitudinal hydrological connectivity. The concept of landscape connectivity can play a pivotal role in understanding the forest fire probabilities by evaluating the connectivity between various fire-prone patches of forests, fuel, and the spatial positions of fire-breaking landscape patches. Based on connectivity concepts, the potential paths of forest fire propagation can be demarcated in advance and can play a crucial role in forest fire mitigation. Other than identifying the risk-prone zones with respect to various hazards, connectivity concept can also be used to plan evacuation routes as well. Therefore, we propose that the geomorphic connectivity framework can be a robust tool to manage and mitigate various geological hazards.

How to cite: Singh, M. N., Singh, S., Laha, A., and Mishra, K.: Applicability of connectivity concept for disaster management and hazard mitigation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14040,, 2021.

Patricia Saco, Mariano Moreno-de las Heras, Jose Rodriguez, Steven Sandi, Samira Azadi, and Juan Quijano

Changes in hydro-geomorphic connectivity have been previously linked to catastrophic shifts in landscape structures and function leading to irreversible degradation. Here we present evidence and new observations to better understand the link between connectivity of water and sediments and possible phase transitions for the case of semiarid ecosystems at the catchment and hillslope scales.  We first focus on rangelands, where coevolving vegetation and landform structures lead to a distinct connectivity pattern responsible for the healthy functioning of the system. Positive feedbacks, triggered by disturbances in vegetation, water or sediment structures can alter the hydro-geomorphic connectivity leading to degradation. Our results for rangelands in Australia, from both simulations and observations, suggest that an increase in connectivity beyond a threshold may lead to irreversible degradation, meaning that the system return to a functional state is unlikely without extensive management interventions. We also analyse the case of semi-arid floodplain wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin, where we observe that dis-connectivity during droughts promote terrestrial vegetation encroachment and degradation. Simulations and observations also indicate the presence of thresholds beyond which the recovery of the system is unlikely without interventions.

How to cite: Saco, P., Moreno-de las Heras, M., Rodriguez, J., Sandi, S., Azadi, S., and Quijano, J.: Applications of a hydro-geomorphic (dis)connectivity framework to study vegetation transitions in semiarid ecosystems., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14057,, 2021.

Andrei Kedich, Maxim Uspensky, Anatoly Tsyplenkov, Sergey Kharchenko, and Valentin Golosov

The highland cirques mostly created by nivation and glacial exaration take large areas in mountains and have a significant role in the sediment transit of the basins. The approximate view on the connection of cirques and low levels in the sediment flow could be given with the sediment connectivity index analysis. We study the spatial distribution of the index for typical ice cirque – the Koiyavgan cirque near the join of the Main Caucasus Range and its offshoot (the Gumachy range). This area is located in the tops of the Adyl-Su valley (left side of the Baksan river basin). In August 2020, we got a high-resolution orthophoto image (13+ cm) and digital elevation model (27+ cm) from aerial photography. The territory located in the elevation range from 3230 to 4022 m. Geological conditions: gneiss, metamorphic shale and basic dark coloured igneous rocks. There is no developed vegetation cover. Typical post-glacial cirques topography includes (top-down): mountain tops, very steep bedrock slopes, colluvial footslopes and fans, cirques bottom (moraine ridges with dividing valleys, craters from melting of the in-moraine covered ice etc.) with fluvial, avalanche and creep post-shaping, and bottom surface break as analogue of riegels in glacial trough valleys. The connectivity index (CI) after Cavalli et al. [2013] is very dependent on initial DEM resolution, from the method for filling mistaken depressions, from window size for computing intermediate geomorphometric variables (e.g. roughness index), from choice in flow impedance variable, from area coverage and terrain diversity and others. We compute connectivity index with the parameters: 1) DEM resolution – 27 cm; 2) impedance variable – terrain roughness index (standard deviation of elevation) with window 7*7 cells; 3) standard filling method used in the ArcMap (filling local depression without any limitations on maximum depth); 4) range of impedance values before normalization (partially related to area coverage) is from 0 to 72 m. In the some buffers from the channel network the connectivity index generally grows in the top-down direction. Greatest spurt of the CI values relates to the cirques low border - the riegel (3300 m asl). There are two levels characterised with low values of the CI: 3550 m and 3750 m. The first one is backside of cirques bottom with relatively low flow accumulation area and low-moderate slopes (0-25°), the second one is mountain tops with high steep slopes, but with lowest flow accumulation. For different geomorphodynamical zones the threshold of IC where sediment transit turns into sediment accumulation has differ values: for example, -2.3 for colluvial fans and -2.5 for alluvial fans (p-value for differences significance « 0.01). Maximum values of CI (quantile: the top-95%) for accumulative positions again are -1.27 and -0.72. Its means, those accumulative processes areas with different mechanics of the deposition may be delineated with using non-constant CI values only. The potential of sediment flow connectivity modelling for high mountain isn’t exhausted, but its application needs wide discussion and calibration.
The study was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 19-17-00181).

How to cite: Kedich, A., Uspensky, M., Tsyplenkov, A., Kharchenko, S., and Golosov, V.: Sediment connectivity in the Koiyavgan glacier's cirques (Adyl-Su river basin, Caucasus, Russia), EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16175,, 2021.