Main content area

Vegetation cover—another dominant factor in determining global water resources in forested regions

Wei, Xiaohua, Li, Qiang, Zhang, Mingfang, Giles‐Hansen, Krysta, Liu, Wenfei, Fan, Houbao, Wang, Yi, Zhou, Guoyi, Piao, Shilong, Liu, Shirong
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.2 pp. 786-795
additive effect, boreal forests, climate, climate change, forested watersheds, landscapes, models, runoff, vegetation cover, water resources
Forested catchments provide critically important water resources. Due to dramatic global forest change over the past decades, the importance of including forest or vegetation change in the assessment of water resources under climate change has been highly recognized by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); however, this importance has not yet been examined quantitatively across the globe. Here, we used four remote sensing‐based indices to represent changes in vegetation cover in forest‐dominated regions, and then applied them to widely used models: the Fuh model and the Choudhury‐Yang model to assess relative contributions of vegetation and climate change to annual runoff variations from 2000 to 2011 in forested landscape (forest coverage >30%) across the globe. Our simulations show that the global average variation in annual runoff due to change in vegetation cover is 30.7% ± 22.5% with the rest attributed to climate change. Large annual runoff variation in response to vegetation change is found in tropical and boreal forests due to greater forest losses. Our simulations also demonstrate both offsetting and additive effects of vegetation cover and climate in determining water resource change. We conclude that vegetation cover change must be included in any global models for assessing global water resource change under climate change in forest‐dominant areas.