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Hydrological effects of cropland and climatic changes in arid and semi-arid river basins: A case study from the Yellow River basin, China

Li, Huazhen, Zhang, Qiang, Singh, Vijay P., Shi, Peijun, Sun, Peng
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.549 pp. 547-557
atmospheric precipitation, basins, case studies, climate change, cropland, humans, socioeconomic development, stream flow, temperature, water reservoirs, water shortages, watersheds, China, Yellow River
The Yellow River basin is a typical semi-arid river basin in northern China. Serious water shortages have negative impacts on regional socioeconomic development. Recent years have witnessed changes in streamflow processes due to increasing human activities, such as agricultural activities and construction of dams and water reservoirs, and climatic changes, e.g. precipitation and temperature. This study attempts to investigate factors potentially driving changes in different streamflow components defined by different quantiles. The data used were daily streamflow data for the 1959–2005 period from 5 hydrological stations, daily precipitation and temperature data from 77 meteorological stations and data pertaining to cropland and large reservoirs. Results indicate a general decrease in streamflow across the Yellow River basin. Moreover significant decreasing streamflow has been observed in the middle and lower Yellow River basin with change points during the mid-1980s till the mid-1990s. The changes of cropland affect the streamflow components and also the cumulative effects on streamflow variations. Recent years have witnessed moderate cropland variations which result in moderate streamflow changes. Further, precipitation also plays a critical role in changes of streamflow components and human activities, i.e. cropland changes, temperature changes and building of water reservoirs, tend to have increasing impacts on hydrological processes across the Yellow River basin. This study provides a theoretical framework for the study of the hydrological effects of human activities and climatic changes on basins over the globe.