Impact of LUCC on Streamflow using the SWAT Model over the Wei River Basin on the Loess Plateau of China

Other literature type English OPEN
Wang, Hong ; Sun, Fubao (2016)

Under the Grain for Green project in China, vegetation recovery constructions have been widely implemented on the Loess Plateau for the purpose of soil and water conservation. Now it becomes controversial whether the recovery constructions of vegetation, particularly forest, is reducing streamflow in rivers of the Yellow River Basin. In this study, we choose the Wei River, the largest branch of the Yellow River and implemented with revegetation constructions, as the study area. To do that, we apply the widely used Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model for the upper and middle reaches of the – Wei River basin. The SWAT model was forced with daily observed meteorological forcings (1960–2009), calibrated against daily streamflow for 1960–1969, validated for the period of 1970–1979 and used for analysis for 1980–2009. To investigate the impact of the LUCC (Land Use and land Cover Change) on the streamflow, we firstly use two observed land use maps of 1980 and 2005 that are based on national land survey statistics emerged with satellite observations. We found that the mean streamflow generated by using the 2005 land use map decreased in comparison with that using the 1980 one, with the same meteorological forcings. Of particular interest here, we found the streamflow decreased in agricultural land but increased in forest area. More specifically, the surface runoff, soil flow and baseflow all decreased in agricultural land, while the soil flow and baseflow of forest were increased. To investigate that, we then designed five scenarios including (S1) the present land use (1980), (S2) 10 %, (S3) 20 %, (S4) 40 % and (S5) 100 % of agricultural land was converted into forest. We found that the streamflow consistently increased with agricultural land converted into forest by about 7.4 mm per 10 %. Our modeling results suggest that forest recovery constructions have positive impact on both soil flow and base flow compensating reduced surface runoff, which leads to a slight increase in streamflow in the Wei River with mixed landscapes of Loess Plateau and earth-rock mountain.
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