Articles | Volume 20, issue 9
Research article
31 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 31 Aug 2016

Using object-based geomorphometry for hydro-geomorphological analysis in a Mediterranean research catchment

Domenico Guida, Albina Cuomo, and Vincenzo Palmieri

Abstract. The aim of the paper is to apply an object-based geomorphometric procedure to define the runoff contribution areas and support a hydro-geomorphological analysis of a 3 km2 Mediterranean research catchment (southern Italy). Daily and sub-hourly discharge and electrical conductivity data were collected and recorded during a 3-year monitoring activity. Hydro-chemograph analyses carried out on these data revealed a strong seasonal hydrological response in the catchment that differed from the stormflow events that occur in the wet periods and in dry periods. This analysis enabled us to define the hydro-chemograph signatures related to increasing flood magnitude, which progressively involves various runoff components (baseflow, subsurface flow and surficial flow) and an increasing contributing area to discharge. Field surveys and water table/discharge measurements carried out during a selected storm event enabled us to identify and map specific runoff source areas with homogeneous geomorphological units previously defined as hydro-geomorphotypes (spring points, diffuse seepage along the main channel, seepage along the riparian corridors, diffuse outflow from hillslope taluses and concentrate sapping from colluvial hollows). Following the procedures previously proposed and used by authors for object-based geomorphological mapping, a hydro-geomorphologically oriented segmentation and classification was performed with the eCognition (Trimble, Inc.) package. The best agreement with the expert-based geomorphological mapping was obtained with weighted plan curvature at different-sized windows. By combining the hydro-chemical analysis and object-based hydro-geomorphotype map, the variability of the contribution areas was graphically modeled for the selected event, which occurred during the wet season, by using the log values of flow accumulation that better fit the contribution areas. The results allow us to identify the runoff component on hydro-chemographs for each time step and calculate a specific discharge contribution from each hydro-geomorphotype. This kind of approach could be useful when applied to similar, rainfall-dominated, forested and no-karst catchments in the Mediterranean eco-region.

Short summary
The authors apply an object-based geomorphometric procedure to define the runoff contribution areas. The results enabled us to identify the contribution area related to the different runoff components activated during the storm events through an advanced hydro-chemical analysis. This kind of approach could be useful applied to similar, rainfall-dominated, forested and no-karst Mediterranean catchments.