Articles | Volume 14, issue 11
Research article
17 Nov 2010
Research article |  | 17 Nov 2010

Streamflow sensitivity to climate and land cover changes: Meki River, Ethiopia

D. Legesse, T. A. Abiye, C. Vallet-Coulomb, and H. Abate

Abstract. Impacts of climate and land cover changes on streamflow were assessed using a hydrological modeling. The precipitation runoff modeling system of the US Geological Survey was modified in order to consider wetlands as a separate hydrological response unit. Initial model parameters were obtained from a previously modeled adjacent catchment and subsequent calibration and validation were carried out. The model calibration and validation periods were divided into three. The calibration period was a five years period (1981–1986). The validation period was divided into two: validation 1 (1986–1991) and validation 2 (1996–2002). Model performance was evaluated by using joint plots of daily and monthly observed and simulated runoff hydrographs and different coefficients of efficiency. The model coefficients of efficiency were 0.71 for the calibration period and 0.69 and 0.66 for validation periods 1 and 2, respectively. A "delta-change" method was used to formulate climatic scenarios. One land cover change scenario was also used to assess the likely impacts of these changes on the runoff. The results of the scenario analysis showed that the basin is more sensitive to increase in rainfall (+80% for +20%) than to a decrease (−62% for −20%). The rainfall elasticity is 4:1 for a 20% increase in rainfall while it is 3:1 for a 20% reduction. A 1.5°c increase in temperature resulted in a 6% increase in potential evapotranspiration and 13% decrease in streamflow. This indicates that the watershed is more elastic to rainfall increase than temperature. The proposed land cover scenario of converting areas between 2000 to 3000 m a.s.l. to woodland also resulted in a significant decrease in streamflow (11.8%). The study showed that properly calibrated and validated models could help understand likely impacts of climate and land cover changes on catchment water balance.