Zhang L, Nan Z, Xu Y, Li S. Hydrological Impacts of Land Use Change and Climate Variability in the Headwater Region of the Heihe River Basin, Northwest China. PloS One. 2016, 11(6): e158394. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0158394.
Land use change and climate variability are two key factors impacting watershed hydrology, which is strongly related to the availability of water resources and the sustainability of local ecosystems. This study assessed separate and combined hydrological impacts of land use change and climate variability in the headwater region of a typical arid inland river basin, known as the Heihe River Basin, northwest China, in the recent past (1995–2014) and near future (2015–2024), by combining two land use models (i.e., Markov chain model and Dyna-CLUE) with a hydrological model (i.e., SWAT). The potential impacts in the near future were explored using projected land use patterns and hypothetical climate scenarios established on the basis of analyzing long-term climatic observations. Land use changes in the recent past are dominated by the expansion of grassland and a decrease in farmland; meanwhile the climate develops with a wetting and warming trend. Land use changes in this period induce slight reductions in surface runoff, groundwater discharge and streamflow whereas climate changes produce pronounced increases in them. The joint hydrological impacts are similar to those solely induced by climate changes. Spatially, both the effects of land use change and climate variability vary with the sub-basin. The influences of land use changes are more identifiable in some sub-basins, compared with the basin-wide impacts. In the near future, climate changes tend to affect the hydrological regimes much more prominently than land use changes, leading to significant increases in all hydrological components. Nevertheless, the role of land use change should not be overlooked, especially if the climate becomes drier in the future, as in this case it may magnify the hydrological responses.