Sediment connectivity: A framework for understanding sediment transfer at multiple scales

Louise J. Bracken*, Laura Turnbull, John Wainwright, Patrick Bogaart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

377 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


A major challenge for geomorphologists is to scale up small-magnitude processes to produce landscape form, yet existing approaches have been found to be severely limited. New ways to scale erosion and transfer of sediment are thus needed. This paper evaluates the concept of sediment connectivity as a framework for understanding processes involved in sediment transfer across multiple scales. We propose that the concept of sediment connectivity can be used to explain the connected transfer of sediment from a source to a sink in a catchment, and movement of sediment between different zones within a catchment: over hillslopes, between hillslopes and channels, and within channels. Using fluvial systems as an example we explore four scenarios of sediment connectivity which represent end-members of behaviour from fully linked to fully unlinked hydrological and sediment connectivity. Sediment-travel distance - when combined with an entrainment parameter reflecting the frequency-magnitude response of the system - maps onto these end-members, providing a coherent conceptual model for the upscaling of erosion predictions. This conceptual model could be readily expanded to other process domains to provide a more comprehensive underpinning of landscape-evolution models. Thus, further research on the controls and dynamics of travel distances under different modes of transport is fundamental.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-188
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Early online date17 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


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