Water- and sediment-transfer models are commonly used to explain or predict patterns in the landscape at scales different from those at which observations are available. These patterns are often the result of emergent properties that occur because processes of water and sediment transfer are connected in different ways. Recent advances in geomorphology suggest that it is important to consider, at a specific spatio-temporal scale, the structural connectivity of system properties that control processes, and the functional connectivity resulting from the way those processes operate and evolve through time. We argue that a more careful consideration of how structural and functional connectivity are represented in models should lead to more robust models that are appropriate for the scale of application and provide results that can be upscaled. This approach is necessary because, notwithstanding the significant advances in computer power in recent years, many geomorphic models are still unable to represent the landscape in sufficient detail to allow all connectivity to emerge. It is important to go beyond the simple representation of structural connectivity elements and allow the dynamics of processes to be represented, for example by using a connectivity function. This commentary aims to show how a better representation of connectivity in models can be achieved, by considering the sorts of landscape features present, and whether these features can be represented explicitly in the model spatial structure, or must be represented implicitly at the subgrid scale.
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