Hydrological Processes, 15 February 2014, Vol.28(4), pp.1916-1930
Monitoring runoff generation processes in the field is a prerequisite for developing conceptual hydrological models and theories. At the same time, our perception of hydrological processes strongly depends on the spatial and temporal scale of observation. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate interactions between runoff generation processes of different spatial scales (plot scale, hillslope scale, and headwater scale). Different runoff generation processes of three hillslopes with similar topography, geology and soil properties, but differences in vegetation cover (grassland, coniferous forest, and mixed forest) within a small v‐shaped headwater were measured: water table dynamics in wells with high spatial and temporal resolution, subsurface flow (SSF) of three 10 m wide trenches at the bottom of the hillslopes subdivided into two trench sections each, overland flow at the plot scale, and catchment runoff. Bachmair . ([Bachmair S, 2012]) found a high spatial variability of water table dynamics at the plot scale. In this study, we investigate the representativity of SSF observations at the plot scale the hillslope scale and vice versa, and the linkage between hillslope dynamics (SSF and overland flow) and streamflow. Distinct differences in total SSF within each 10 m wide trench confirm the high spatial variability of the water table dynamics. The representativity of plot scale observations for hillslope scale SSF strongly depends on whether or not wells capture spatially variable flowpaths. At the grassland hillslope, subsurface flowpaths are not captured by our relatively densely spaced wells (3 m), despite a similar trench flow response to the coniferous forest hillslope. Regarding the linkage between hillslope dynamics and catchment runoff, we found an intermediate to high correlation between streamflow and hillslope hydrological dynamics (trench flow and overland flow), which highlights the importance of hillslope processes in this small watershed. Although the total contribution of SSF to total event catchment runoff is rather small, the contribution during peak flow is moderate to substantial. Additionally, there is process synchronicity between spatially discontiguous measurement points across scales, potentially indicating subsurface flowpath connectivity. Our findings stress the need for (i) a combination of observations at different spatial scales, and (ii) a consideration of the high spatial variability of SSF at the plot and hillslope scale when designing monitoring networks and assessing hydrological connectivity. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Subsurface Flow ; Preferential Flow ; Hillslope Hydrology ; Scale Effects ; Hydrological Connectivity ; Monitoring Networks