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Title: Groundwater Affects the Geomorphic and Hydrologic Properties of Coevolved Landscapes

The hydrologic dynamics and geomorphic evolution of watersheds are intimately coupled—runoff generation and water storage are controlled by topography and properties of the surface and subsurface, while also affecting the evolution of those properties over geologic time. However, the large disparity between their timescales has made it difficult to examine interdependent controls on emergent hydrogeomorphic properties, such as hillslope length, drainage density, and extent of surface saturation. In this study, we develop a new model coupling hydrology and landscape evolution to explore how runoff generation affects long‐term catchment evolution, and analyze numerical results using a nondimensional scaling framework. We focus on hydrologic processes dominating in humid climates where storm runoff primarily arises from shallow subsurface flow and from precipitation on saturated areas. The model solves hydraulic groundwater equations to predict the water‐table elevation given prescribed, constant groundwater recharge. Water in excess of the subsurface capacity for transport becomes overland flow, which generates shear stress on the surface and may detach and transport sediment. This affects the landscape form that in turn affects runoff generation. We show that (a) four dimensionless parameters describe the possible steady state landscapes that coevolve under steady recharge; (b) hillslope length increases with increasing transmissivity relative to the recharge rate; (c) three topographic metrics—steepness index, Laplacian curvature, and topographic index—together provide a basis for interpreting landscapes that have coevolved with runoff generated via shallow subsurface flow. Finally we discuss the possibilities and limitations for quantitative comparisons between the model results and real landscapes.

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Award ID(s):
2012264 1654194 2012353 1831623 2104102
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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