Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
16 Jul 2012
Research article |  | 16 Jul 2012

Predicting effects of plantation expansion on streamflow regime for catchments in Australia

L. Zhang, F. F. Zhao, and A. E. Brown

Abstract. The effect of plantations on mean annual streamflow is well understood and, there are robust methods available for assessing the impact. Plantations also affect streamflow regime, leading to reductions in low flow and increased number of zero-flow days. Understanding changes in streamflow regime following plantation expansion is important for developing water resources and environmental flow strategy. This study evaluated the impacts of plantations on streamflow regime from 15 catchments in Australia. The selected catchments range in size from 0.6 to 1136 km2 and represent different climatic conditions and management practices. The catchments have at least 20 yr and in most cases 35 yr of continuous daily streamflow data and well documented plantation records. Catchments with perennial streamflow in the pre-treatment periods showed relatively uniform reductions in most flows after plantation expansions, whereas catchments with ephemeral streamflow showed more dramatic reductions in low flows, leading to an increased number of zero-flow days. The Forest Cover Flow Change (FCFC) model was tested using the data from the selected catchments and comparison of predicted and observed flow duration curves showed that 14 of the 15 catchments have coefficients of efficiency greater than 0.8. The results indicate that the model is capable of predicting plantation impacts on streamflow regime.