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Hydrological response of a large-scale mountainous watershed to rainstorm spatial patterns and reforestation in subtropical China

Huang, X., Fang, N.F., Zhu, T.X., Wang, L., Shi, Z.H., Hua, L.
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.645 pp. 1083-1093
analysis of variance, hydrograph, hysteresis, mountains, rain, reforestation, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, vegetation cover, watersheds, China
This paper aims to investigate the hydrological response of a large-scale (8973 km2) mountainous watershed to different rainstorm spatial patterns and reforestation. Based on 32 years of observations, measurements of 184 rainstorm events and 125 sediment-producing events with complete hydrographs were analyzed. The K-means clustering method was used to classify the spatial patterns of rainstorm events in accordance with their event-based spatial rainfall characteristics. The 184 rainstorm events were classified into four spatial patterns, among which the spatial features differ significantly: (I) Spatial Pattern I (SPI) includes rainstorms with a low amount of cumulative areal rainfall (27.4 mm), the highest spatial variability (0.986), and the highest frequency; (II) Spatial Pattern II (SPII) includes rainstorms of high spatial variability (0.759) and the largest amount of local maximum daily rainfall (106.8 mm); (III) Spatial Pattern III (SPIII) includes rainstorms with a medium amount of cumulative areal rainfall (58.7 mm) and low spatial variability (0.362); and (IV) Spatial Pattern IV (SPIV) includes rainstorms with the largest amount of cumulative areal rainfall (117.2 mm) and the lowest spatial variability (0.313). Vegetation cover in the upper Du watershed was significantly improved after the implementation of the Grain-for-Green project. The average area-specific sediment yields (SSY) for the four SPs were 15.4, 65.5, 55.8, and 286.2 t km−2 before reforestation and decreased to 6.0, 59.3, 43.7 and 89.9 t km−2, respectively, after reforestation. ANOVA (analysis of variance) indicated that reforestation resulted in a significant reduction in runoff coefficient under SPIII and SPIV and a significant reduction in SSY under SPI and SPIV. A hysteresis analysis suggested that the proportion of events with a clockwise loop increased from 64.9% before reforestation to 82.1% after reforestation and that complex loops became less common during 2000–2010 under SPIV, thereby implying a reduced sediment supply.