Using field data to inform and evaluate a new model of catchment hydrologic connectivity


  • Tyler Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York, USA
    • Corresponding author: T. Smith, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699, USA. (

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Lucy Marshall,

    1. School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Brian McGlynn,

    1. Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Kelsey Jencso

    1. Department of Forest Management, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA
    Search for more papers by this author


[1] We present a new hydrologic model based on the frequency distribution of hillslope landscape elements along the stream network as a basis for simulating landscape-scale hydrologic connectivity and catchment runoff. Hydrologic connectivity describes shallow water table continuity between upland and stream elements of the catchment and is important for the movement of water and solutes to streams. This concept has gained traction in physical hydrology but has received less attention in rainfall-runoff modeling. Our model is based on the empirical studies of Jencso et al. (2009, 2010), who found a strong correlation between the duration of shallow groundwater connectivity across hillslope, riparian, and stream zones and upslope accumulated area. We explored the relationship between catchment form and function by testing the extent to which streamflow generation could be predicted by a model based on the topographic form (distribution of landscape elements) of the catchment. We applied the model to the Stringer Creek catchment of the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, located in Montana, USA. Detailed field observations collected by Jencso et al. (2009) were used to inform the underpinnings of the model and to corroborate internal consistency of the model simulations. The model demonstrated good agreement between the observed and predicted streamflow and connectivity duration curves. The ability of this model to simulate internal dynamics without conditioning the parameters on these data suggests that it has the potential to be more confidently extrapolated to other shallow, topographically driven catchments than hydrologic models that fail to consistently reproduce internal variables.