Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. James F. Fox


The goal of this dissertation is to represent the spatial and temporal domains of water, sediment, and nutrient flux and pathways within fluvial and watershed settings. To complete this goal, we integrate connectivity theory into watershed model structures to simulate water, sediment, and nutrient movement at the fundamental unit they occur. Fluvial-based sediment and nutrient flux is an important driver of global sediment and nutrient budgets, and the quantification of which serves as an ongoing challenge to limnologists, engineers, and watershed managers. Watershed models have been richly developed over the past century, but are currently restrained by problems related to omission of physical transport and detachment processes as well ambiguous representation of active non-point sources and their transport pathways. To overcome limitations such as these, geomorphologists introduced connectivity theory, which has garnered popularity from watershed managers and modelers due perhaps to its ability to explain the non-linearity of system response and explicitly detail non-point sources, sinks, and transport pathways. Connectivity is defined herein as, “the integrated transfer of material from source to sink facilitated by the continuum of material generation, loss, and transport in three dimensions and through time.” Connectivity theory has matured such that we now have a holistic view of phenomena controlling connectivity, however, the connectivity community has not yet adopted a unified conceptual framework with the goal of connectivity quantification. Existing connectivity models have varying approaches to quantify connectivity such as: (1) index-based connectivity assessments; (2) effective catchment area estimation; and (3) network-based connectivity simulations. While these models often adequately represent the structural connections of landscape elements, few frameworks are able to represent the variability of connectivity from dynamic hydrologic forcings. We argue that explicit coupling of watershed models with a unified connectivity framework will help to improve the basis of watershed modelling in physics while avoiding problems that current watershed models possess: namely due to spatial and temporal lumping and empirical estimations of non-point source generation and fate. This dissertation seeks to fulfill this objective through of six studies that advance formulation of the tenets of connectivity including the magnitude, extent, timing, and continuity of connectivity with respect to water, sediment, and nutrients.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of this research under National Science Foundation Award 163288 from 2016-2020.