Understanding connectivity of surface and subsurface flow in upland agricultural land

Reservoir in the Ingbirchworth catchment

Project background

The aim of this project, undertaken as a PhD by CatSci student Irantzu Lexartza-Artza between 2006 and 2010, was to further the understanding of complex transfer processes across spatial and temporal scales in catchments, using connectivity as an overarching framework. The project took a multiple-methodology approach, using both a development of conceptual understanding and a field-based study of connectivity in upland agricultural land. The case study system used in this project was the Ingbirchworth catchment, a small catchment west of Barnsley.

Key findings

  • Historical changes in sediment connectivity are linked to significant land-use and management changes in the study catchment.
  • Sediment-contributing areas vary over time as a consequence of changing conditions, which demonstrates that typical calculations of catchment-area yields can be misleading.
  • Fluxes of water and sediments via subsurface pathways are significantly higher than surface fluxes. Such subsurface pathways, however, are not considered when managing transfer of water and water-associated substances.
  • The implementation of the connectivity framework enables the identification and conceptualization of catchment interactions and feedbacks that influence transfer processes.
Map of the Ingbirchworth study site
© Crown Copyright/database right 2011. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. River layer kindly licensed from the Environment Agency.

Additional details

Funding: This project was part of the Marie Curie Early Stage Training programme ‘CatSci’, funded by the European Commission.


Lexartza-Artza, I. and Wainwright, J. (2009). Hydrological Connectivity: Linking Concepts with Practical Implications. Catena 79, 146-152.

Wainwright, J., Turnbull, L., Ibrahim, T., Lexartza-Artza, I., Thornton, S. and Brazier, R. (2011). Linking Environmental Régimes, Space and Time: Interpretations of Structural and Functional Connectivity. Geomorphology 126 (3-4), 387-404.

Lexartza-Artza, I. and Wainwright, J. (2011). Making connections: changing sediment sources and sinks in an upland catchment. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 36 (8), 1090-1104.

Lexartza-Artza, I. and Wainwright, J. (submitted). Assessing complex catchment interactions: A study of hydrogeomorphological connectivity in a UK upland catchment. Hydrological Processes.

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