In fluvial basin analysis, sediment connectivity is an important element for defining channel dynamics. Nevertheless, although several approaches to quantify this concept have been trialed, there is considerable discussion about ways to measure and assess sediment connectivity. The present study investigates sediment connectivity through the definition of a new index, aiming to integrate functional aspects within a structural component. Our objective is to produce a sediment flow connectivity index (SCI) map, directly applicable to monitoring and management activities. Our SCI is defined as the result of the gradient-based flow accumulation of a sediment mobility index, which is in turn a simple function of rainfall, geotechnical properties of soil and land use. This method is here applied to the Vernazza basin (eastern Liguria, Italy), producing a sediment connectivity map that shows good performance in predicting the positions and accumulation paths of mobilized deposits detected on the ground after the October 25th, 2011, flood event. A further evaluation of the proposed index is performed through a comparison of the maps derived using the SCI and connectivity index (IC) developed by Cavalli et al. (2013), which highlights comparable quantitative overall performances, together with a slightly better qualitative identification of subtle sediment flow paths by the SCI. In spite of current limitations due to, e.g., the local nature of the final index, the availability of input information through open global datasets promises the potential application of this method to larger-scale assessments, paying attention to properly addressing upscaling and standardization issues.
Keywords: LIDAR; Sediment connectivity index; Sediment mobility; Vernazza catchment.
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