Investigating hydrologic connectivity and its association with threshold change in runoff response in a temperate forested watershed

Authors

  • April L. James,

    1. Department of Geography, Global Environment and Climate Change Centre (GEC3), McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Forest Engineering, Oregon State University, 204 Peavy Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
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  • Nigel T. Roulet

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geography, Global Environment and Climate Change Centre (GEC3), McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada
    2. McGill School of Environment, McGill University, 3534 University St., Montreal, QC H3A 2A7, Canada
    • Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada.
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Abstract

Hydrological studies across varied climatic and physiographic regions have observed small changes in the ‘states of wetness’; based on average soil moisture, can lead to dramatic changes in the amount of water delivered to the stream channel. This non-linear behaviour of the storm response has been attributed to a critical switching in spatial organization of shallow soil moisture and hydrologic connectivity. However, much of the analysis of the role of soil moisture organization and connectivity has been performed in small rangeland catchments. Therefore, we examined the relationship between hydrologic connectivity and runoff response within a temperate forested watershed of moderate relief. We have undertaken spatial surveys of shallow soil moisture over a sequence of storms with varying antecedent moisture conditions. We analyse each survey for evidence of hydrologic connectivity and we monitor the storm response from the catchment outlet. Our results show evidence of a non-linear response in runoff generation over small changes in measures of antecedent moisture conditions; yet, unlike the previous studies of rangeland catchments, in this forested landscape we do not observe a significant change in geostatistical hydrologic connectivity with variations in antecedent moisture conditions. These results suggest that a priori spatial patterns in shallow soil moisture in forested terrains may not always be a good predictor of critical hydrologic connectivity that leads to threshold change in runoff generation, as has been the case in rangeland catchments. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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