Quantification of bedrock structural controls of longitudinal sediment connectivity using the probability of connectivity and sediment continuity model

D. T. Mahoney, J. F. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The structural controls of sediment connectivity are poorly understood in low-gradient watersheds and stream networks. We developed a field- and modeling-based framework to understand the timescales and thresholds associated with the structural controls of sediment connectivity and continuity in the Inner Bluegrass region of Kentucky, USA. Field reconnaissance was carried out to assess stream morphology and sediment connectivity, which was leveraged to derive instream sediment connectivity indices for 181 pool-riffle sequences in the low-gradient bedrock stream network. Our model framework coupled a probability-based connectivity formulation with the sediment continuity formula to assess sediment transport and connectivity in the stream network. Results indicated that the bedrock system reflects an end-member in which lithology controls longitudinal stream morphology. Specifically, we found that regional morphology controls pool-riffle length scales via bedrock outcrops, which therein controls the timescales of sediment connectivity over multiple hydrologic regimes. The pool to riffle length ratio was found to be 4.6, an order of magnitude greater than the ratio for alluvial systems. The new formulation of the sediment continuity formula coupled with the probability of connectivity framework adequately captured both short-term and long-term continuous dynamics of sediment transport, as indicated by evaluation metrics with measured sediment flux and field reconnaissance. Based on the analysis of 362 riffles and pools, we found that sediment in pools upstream of bedrock outcrop barriers are disconnected 93 % of the time whereas riffles are connected and allow full continuity 99 % of the time. Longitudinal sediment connectivity within the stream network was found to be controlled by both functional connectivity and structural connectivity, which contrasts recent findings describing the controls of sediment connectivity over lateral pathways on hillslopes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109027
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Functional connectivity
  • Pool-riffle
  • Sediment connectivity
  • Sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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