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Modelling sediment delivery using connectivity components at the experimental SPA2 basin, Sicily (Italy)


Sediment delivery ratio can be used as a measure of sediment connectivity and it can be linked to the structural connectivity (morphological unit, slope length, slope steepness, travel time) of a basin and to the functional connectivity (rainfall-runoff processes at morphological unit scale). In this paper the sediment connectivity approach was applied at basin scale both using Sediment Delivery Distributed (SEDD) model, which takes into account the hillslope sediment transport, and sediment yield measurements carried out at SPA2 experimental basin (Sicily, Italy). The expression of the sediment delivery ratio SDRi of a morphological unit was modified for highlighting two components corresponding to the structural (SDRF,i) and functional (SDRF,i) sediment connectivity, respectively. For SPA2 basin the frequency distribution of the travel time of each morphological unit was used to estimate the coefficient βL of the structural component of the sediment delivery ratio of each morphological unit. Then, using the sediment yield measurements carried out at the outlet of the experimental SPA2 basin in the period April 2000-March 2015, the SEDD model was calibrated at event scale for estimating the coefficient βF of the functional component of the sediment delivery ratio. At event scale the developed analysis stated that the functional connectivity is dependent on the magnitude of erosion events. Intermediate and high events, which were characterized by the lowest values of the functional coefficient, determine a more high functional connectivity and are characterized by a more efficient sediment transport along the hillslopes. Finally, at annual scale, the model was calibrated for the period 2000–2015 and relationships for estimating the coefficient βF,a of the functional component of the sediment delivery ratio taking into account the intensity of erosion events occurring in each year were determined. At annual scale, the analysis demonstrated that the functional coefficient was always greater than the landscape coefficient and the sediment connectivity was always controlled by the low values of the functional component.