Coevolution of volcanic catchments in Japan

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Present day landscapes have evolved over time through interactions between the prevailing climates and geological settings. Understanding the linkage between spatial patterns of landforms, soils, and vegetation in landscapes and their hydrological response is critical to make quantitative predictions in ungaged basins. Catchment co-evolution is a theoretical framework that seeks to formulate hypotheses about the mechanisms and conditions that determine the historical development of catchments and how such evolution affects their hydrological response. In this study, we selected 14 volcanic catchments of different ages (from 0.225 to 82.2 Ma) in Japan. We derived indices of landscape properties (drainage density) as well as hydrological response (annual water balance, baseflow index, and flow duration curves) and examined their relation with catchment age and climate (through the aridity index). We found significant correlation between drainage density and baseflow index with age, but not with climate. The age of the catchments was also significantly related to intra-annual flow variability. Younger catchments tend to have lower peak flows and higher low flows, while older catchments exhibit more flashy runoff. The decrease of baseflow with catchment age confirms previous studies that hypothesized that in volcanic landscapes the major flow pathways have changed over time, from deep groundwater flow to shallow subsurface flow. The drainage density of our catchments decreased with age, contrary to previous findings in similar volcanic catchments but of significant younger age than the ones explored here. In these younger catchments, an increase in drainage density with age was observed, and it was hypothesized that this was because of more landscape incision due to increasing near-surface lateral flow paths in more mature catchments. Our results suggests two hypotheses on the evolution of drainage density in matured catchments. One is that as catchments further evolve, hydrologically active channels retreat as less recharge leads to lower average aquifer levels and less baseflow; the other is that it does not significantly change after catchments reached maturity in terms of surface dissection.




Yoshida, T., & Troch, P. A. (2016). Coevolution of volcanic catchments in Japan. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20(3), 1133–1150.

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