Hydrologic Connectivity and Patch-To-Hillslope Scale Relations in Dryland Ecosystems

O. Crompton, G. Katul, D. Lapides, S. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In drylands, runoff during storms redistributes water and nutrients from bare soil areas to vegetated patches, subsidizing vegetation with additional resources. The extent of this redistribution depends on the interplay between surface roughness and permeability; greater permeability in vegetated patches promotes run-on to vegetation, but greater surface roughness diverts runoff, producing tortuous flow paths that bypass vegetation. Here, this interplay is examined in virtual experiments using the 2D Saint Venant Equations to measure runoff connectivity. Flowpaths are delineated using tracers advected by the flow. Distances between tracer sources and sinks along flowpaths measure hydrologic connectivity at two lengthscales: connectivity to the hillslope outlet and within-slope source-sink connectivity. Differences between these connectivity lengthscales indicate how flow may “by-pass” vegetated patches within hillslopes. At the hillslope scale, a derived power-law relation between the runoff coefficient and outlet connectivity describes hillslope water losses, providing a foundation for identifying landscapes likely to shed water.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL101801
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2023


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