Connecting European connectivity research (COST Action ES1306)

Saskia Keesstra
Deputy President of the Soil System Sciences Division of the European Geosciences Union

Why connecting connectivity research?

Successful prediction of pathways of storm runoff generation and associated soil erosion is of considerable societal importance, including off-site impacts such as water quality and the provision of related ecosystem services. Recently, the role of connectivity in controlling runoff and erosion has received significant and increasing scientific attention, though in a disparate and uncoordinated way. There is a wealth of experience and expertise in connectivity across Europe that can move forward research along agreed lines and identify emerging goals, and to benefit from cross-fertilization of ideas from the fields of Hydrology, Soil Science, Geomorphology and Ecology.

The key benefit of this COST Action (ES1306) will therefore be to establish connectivity as a research paradigm. The Action will then permit transfer of current understanding into useable science, by developing its conceptual basis and transferring it into a series of monitoring and modelling tools that will provide the platform for indices that will inform holistic management of catchment systems.

Working groups and activities

The Action has five working groups focussing on different aspects of Connectivity research: WG1: Theory, WG2: Measuring Approaches, WG3: Modelling Approaches, WG4: Indices and WG5: Transfer to Management.

The first scientific meeting of the CONNECTEUR group was held in Wageningen in August 2014 (24-25-26th). In this kickoff meeting we focused on setting the agenda for the coming 4 years in which the Action will run. Apart from several keynotes addressed to introduce the different working group aims, objectives and actions, there were people from outside of science that gave their view on the connectivity concept and shared with us the way this topic is viewed and approached by policy makers and end users. In this way we tried to link science and end-users communities to find common language and create an interactive atmosphere. In addition, we got to know each other, and each other’s work. Which is of course essential for collaboration. In the program there will be ample time to look at each other’s posters and discuss possible linkages and set up new synergies. In addition we discussed in breakout groups the view on the connectivity topic in different parts of Europe and finally the way we should move forward with this science in the different working groups.

If you are interested in the outcomes of the Action and in specific the outcomes of the meeting in Wageningen check out the CONNECTEUR website.

If you want to join the Action you can register at the website and you can be as active as you like!

Read more


This post has been also published in the EGU Blog Network.

Monday paper: Statistical analysis and modelling of surface runoff from arable fields in central Europe

Fiener, P., Auerswald, K., Winter, F., Disse, M. 2013. Statistical analysis and modelling of surface runoff from arable fields in central Europe. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17, 4121-4132. DOI: 10.5194/hess-17-4121-2013


Surface runoff generation on arable fields is an important driver of flooding, on-site and off-site damages by erosion, and of nutrient and agrochemical transport. In general, three different processes generate surface runoff (Hortonian runoff, saturation excess runoff, and return of subsurface flow). Despite the developments in our understanding of these processes it remains difficult to predict which processes govern runoff generation during the course of an event or throughout the year, when soil and vegetation on arable land are passing many states. We analysed the results from 317 rainfall simulations on 209 soils from different landscapes with a resolution of 14 286 runoff measurements to determine temporal and spatial differences in variables governing surface runoff, and to derive and test a statistical model of surface runoff generation independent from an a priori selection of modelled process types. Measured runoff was related to 20 time-invariant soil properties, three variable soil properties, four rain properties, three land use properties and many derived variables describing interactions and curvilinear behaviour. In an iterative multiple regression procedure, six of these properties/variables best described initial abstraction and the hydrograph. To estimate initial abstraction, the percentages of stone cover above 10% and of sand content in the bulk soil were needed, while the hydrograph could be predicted best from rain depth exceeding initial abstraction, rainfall intensity, soil organic carbon content, and time since last tillage. Combining the multiple regressions to estimate initial abstraction and surface runoff allowed modelling of event-specific hydrographs without an a priori assumption of the underlying process. The statistical model described the measured data well and performed equally well during validation. In both cases, the model explained 71 and 58% of variability in accumulated runoff volume and instantaneous runoff rate (RSME: 5.2 mm and 0.23 mm min−1, respectively), while RMSE of runoff volume predicted by the curve number model was 50% higher (7.7 mm). Stone cover, if it exceeded 10%, was most important for the initial abstraction, while time since tillage was most important for the hydrograph. Time since tillage is not taken into account either in typical lumped hydrological models (e.g. SCS curve number approach) or in more mechanistic models using Horton, Green and Ampt, or Philip type approaches to address infiltration although tillage affects many physical and biological soil properties that subsequently and gradually change again. This finding should foster a discussion regarding our ability to predict surface runoff from arable land, which seemed to be dominated by agricultural operations that introduce man-made seasonality in soil hydraulic properties.

Download full paper

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) is an international two-stage open access journal for the publication of original research in hydrology, placed within a holistic Earth System Science context. The discussion and peer-review of submitted papers are handled in the open access discussion journal HESSD. Final papers, upon acceptance, appear in HESS (see Review Process under the heading Review).

HESS encourages and supports fundamental and applied research that seeks to understand the interactions between water, earth, ecosystems and man. A multi-disciplinary approach is encouraged that enables a broadening of the hydrologic perspective and the advancement of hydrologic science through the integration with other cognate sciences, and the cross-fertilization across disciplinary boundaries. HESS, therefore, has the ambition to serve not only the community of hydrologists, but all earth and life scientists, water engineers and water managers, who wish to publish original findings on the interactions between hydrological processes and other physical, chemical, biological and societal processes within the earth system, and the utilization of this holistic understanding towards sustainable management of water resources, water quality and water-related natural hazards.

The scope of HESS therefore encompasses:

  1. The role of physical, chemical and biological processes in the cycling of continental water in all its phases, including dissolved and particulate matter, at all scales, from the micro-scale processes of soil water to the global-scale processes underpinning hydro-climatology.
  2. The study of the spatial and temporal characteristics of the global water resources (solid, liquid and vapour) and related budgets, in all compartments of the Earth System (atmosphere, oceans, estuaries, rivers, lakes and land masses), including water stocks, residence times, interfacial fluxes, and the pathways between various compartments.
  3. The study of the interactions with human activity of all the processes, budgets, fluxes and pathways as outlined above, and the options for influencing them in a sustainable manner, particularly in relation to floods, droughts, desertification, land degradation, eutrophication, and other aspects of global change.

The journal will publish research articles, research and technical notes, opinion papers, book reviews, brief communications, and comments on papers published previously in HESS. Papers can address different techniques and approaches, including: theory, modelling, experiments or instrumentation. The journal covers the following Subject Areas and Techniques/Approaches, which are used to categorise papers:

Subject Areas:

  • Hillslope Hydrology;
  • Catchment Hydrology;
  • Global Hydrology;
  • Rivers and Lakes;
  • Coasts and Estuaries;
  • Hydrometeorology;
  • Vadose Zone Hydrology;
  • Groundwater Hydrology;
  • Ecohydrology;
  • Biogeochemical Processes;
  • Urban Hydrology;
  • Engineering Hydrology;
  • Water Resources Management.

Techniques and Approaches:

  • Theory Development;
  • Modelling Approaches;
  • Instruments and Observation Techniques;
  • Remote Sensing and GIS;
  • Mathematical Applications;
  • Stochastic Approaches;
  • Uncertainty Analysis.

More at Hydrology and Earth System Sciences homepage

The impact of citrus production. An approach from the soil system

Artemi Cerdà
Soil Erosion and Degradation Research Group (SEDER).
Departament de Geografia. Universitat de València. Blasco Ibàñez, 28, 46010, Valencia, Spain

Soil conservation and orchard production

Soil conservation is the key to maintaining the food production, soil sustainability, and the functionality of terrestrial ecosystems. However, chemical agriculture, based on synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, has led to soil degradation where soil quality became secondary to other agricultural factors, such as water, microclimate, and the variety of the crop. In too many instances soils are not properly managed, despite their key role in the functioning of terrestrial biogeochemical cycles, plant and animal nutrition, and the success of human societies. And one of those instances is chemically farming orchards.

Although soil erosion problems have been present in Spain since the Neolithic period due to human impact and enviromental conditions (droughts, high rainfall intensities, steep slopes), farmers developed agricultural systems to control the soil and water losses by means of terracing (García Ruiz, 2010).

Nave-lane-late oranges production in Valencia. The oranges are an icon of Valencia.
Nave-lane-late oranges production in Valencia. The oranges are an icon of Valencia. Click to enlarge.

Continue reading

Impact of erosive processes in mountain areas (Southeastern Spain)

María Burguet
Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS-CSIC), Spain

Dique del Granadino (Granada, Spain)

The sediment accumulation in the Rules reservoir represents a threat to its useful time. The Granadino (Guadalfeo river) dam was built in 2002, upstream from the reservoir to retain fluvial sediments, as well as, enabling water for irrigation. However, since 2004 the dam exhibits severe aggradation problems, causing a reduction of 17% of the total reservoir capacity, at the elevation level of the spillway.

The watersheds developed in the low Alpujarras, as well as the Contraviesa and Lujar mountains, present a very high degree of degradation, whereas the watersheds in the south-facing slope of Sierra Nevada show high flood potential. At the microscale it is important to emphasize infiltration and friction processes, caused by surface and subsurface runoff, as well as unconsolidated rock dragging. At the mesoscale level, landslides, creep, liquefaction and gullying processes need to be remarked as sediment sources in the Guadalfeo River.