Stream network morphology and storm response in humid catchments

Peter A. Troch, Francois P. De Troch, Marco Mancini, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Addressing scaling issues in hydrological modelling involves, among other things, the study of problems related to hydrological similarity between catchments of different scales. Recent research about catchment similarity relationships is based on distributed conceptual models of surface runoff production. In this type of hydrological modelling both infiltration excess and saturation excess runoff production mechanisms are considered. In many humid lowland areas overland flow is a rare phenomenon because of the specific conditions that prevail: moderate rainfall, high infiltration capacity and low relief. The complete drainage system in these regions consists of surface and subsurface components which have organized themselves in a given geological, geomorphological and climatic situation. A surface drainage network has developed through sapping erosion at the zone of groundwater exfiltration. The resulting hierarchical stream network is in equilibrium with large time‐scale conditions and adjusts itself dynamically to the inter‐year and seasonal meteorological fluctuations. Greater understanding of the interrelationships that underlie the storm response of catchments in humid lowland regions can be expected by focusing on stream network morphology as a function of topography, geology and climate. This paper applies the physically based mathematical model of stream network morphology, developed by De Vries (1977), to the Zwalmbeek catchment, Belgium. Based on this model and for different climatic conditions (expressed in terms of rainfall characteristics) the first‐order stream spacing versus average water‐table depth relationship is calculated. From field observations, digital elevation model derived channel network drainage densities and flood event analysis it is concluded that the 1% exceedance probability rainfall can be suggested as representative for the shaping climatic conditions in the catchment under study. The corresponding curves relating channel network characteristics, such as stream spacing, drainage density and channel geometry, to average water‐table depth are basin descriptors and could be used for comparative studies (e.g. regional flood frequency analysis). The model further allows for the prediction of the expansion and shrinkage of the first‐order channel network as a function of catchment wetness expressed in terms of the effective water‐table depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Humid catchments
  • Hydrological similarity
  • Storm response
  • Stream network morphology


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