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

Tyler Smith, Lucy Marshall, Brian McGlynn, Kelsey Jencso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


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. Key Points Simple hydrologic models typically fail to reproduce internal dynamics Catchment structure was used to inform a new model structure Model results demonstrated consistency with catchment hydrologic connectivity

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6834-6846
Number of pages13
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • catchment
  • conceptual model
  • hillslope
  • hydrologic connectivity
  • landscape analysis
  • riparian
  • runoff
  • source areas
  • topography
  • watershed


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