Pinning down connectivity

Posted on June 26, 2010

The concept of connectivity is increasingly used to help explain a wide range of hydrological, geomorphological and ecological patterns and processes.  However, the term connectivity is used in a number of different ways depending on the scientific discipline.  For example, connectivity can refer to physical connections between hillslopes, floodplains and river channels within a catchment; the degree of coupling between surface water and subsurface aquifers; the transfer of sediment and other material between locations; or the efficiency with which runoff, animals or plant propagules can move through a stream network.   This variation in use has prompted calls for a common definition of connectivity which can  help workers in different disciplines to  compare hydrological responses across a range of studies.  In a recent review, twoU.K.researchers advocate the use of a connectivity index that addresses this need.  The index provides the probability that any two points are connected, and thus enables mapping of the points and their likelihood of being connected to a specific location.  This approach should make it easier to focus on underlying hydrological processes rather than local complexities, and to link measurements made at different scales in space and time.

Reference:  Michaelides, K. & Chappell, A.  2009.   Connectivity as a concept for characterising hydrological behavior.  Hydrological Processes 23, 517–522.