Landscape reorganization under changing climatic forcing: Results from an experimental landscape

Arvind Singh, Liam Reinhardt, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou

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44 Scopus citations


Understanding how landscapes respond to climate dynamics in terms of macroscale (average topographic features) and microscale (landform reorganization) is of interest both for deciphering past climates from today's landscapes and for predicting future landscapes in view of recent climatic trends. Although several studies have addressed macro-scale response, only a few have focused on quantifying smaller-scale basin reorganization. To that goal, a series of controlled laboratory experiments were conducted where a self-organized complete drainage network emerged under constant precipitation and uplift dynamics. Once steady state was achieved, the landscape was subjected to a fivefold increase in precipitation (transient state). Throughout the evolution, high-resolution spatiotemporal topographic data in the form of digital elevation models were collected. The steady state landscape was shown to possess three distinct geomorphic regimes (unchannelized hillslopes, debris-dominated channels, and fluvially dominated channels). During transient state, landscape reorganization was observed to be driven by hillslopes via accelerated erosion, ridge lowering, channel widening, and reduction of basin relief as opposed to channel base-level reduction. Quantitative metrics on which these conclusions were based included slope-area curve, correlation analysis of spatial and temporal elevation increments, and wavelet spectral analysis of the evolving landscapes. Our results highlight that landscape reorganization in response to increased precipitation seems to follow "an arrow of scale": major elevation change initiates at the hillslope scale driving erosional regime change at intermediate scales and further cascading to geomorphic changes at the channel scale as time evolves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4320-4337
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

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© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.© American Geophysical Union.All Rights Reserved.


  • climate change
  • landscape evolution
  • power spectral density
  • river network
  • slope-area


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