Articles | Volume 19, issue 7
Research article
10 Jul 2015
Research article |  | 10 Jul 2015

Time series analysis of the long-term hydrologic impacts of afforestation in the Águeda watershed of north-central Portugal

D. Hawtree, J. P. Nunes, J. J. Keizer, R. Jacinto, J. Santos, M. E. Rial-Rivas, A.-K. Boulet, F. Tavares-Wahren, and K.-H. Feger

Abstract. The north-central region of Portugal has undergone significant land cover change since the early 1900s, with large-scale replacement of natural vegetation types with plantation forests. This transition consisted of an initial conversion primarily to Pinus pinaster, followed by a secondary transition to Eucalyptus globulus. This land cover change is likely to have altered the hydrologic functioning of this region; however, these potential impacts are not fully understood. To contribute to a better understanding of the potential hydrologic impacts of this land cover change, this study examines the temporal trends in 75 years of data from the Águeda watershed (part of the Vouga Basin) over the period of 1936–2010. A number of hydrometeorological variables were analyzed using a combined Thiel–Sen/Mann–Kendall trend-testing approach, to assess the magnitude and significance of patterns in the observed data. These trend tests indicated that there have been no significant reductions in streamflow over either the entire test period, or during sub-record periods, despite the large-scale afforestation which has occurred. This lack of change in streamflow is attributed to the specific characteristics of the watershed and land cover change. By contrast, a number of significant trends were found for baseflow index, with positive trends in the early data record (primarily during Pinus pinaster afforestation), followed by negative trends later in the data record (primarily during Eucalyptus globulus afforestation). These trends are attributed to land use and vegetation impacts on streamflow generating processes, both due to species differences and to alterations in soil properties (i.e., infiltration capacity, soil water repellency). These results highlight the importance of considering both vegetation types/dynamics and watershed characteristic when assessing hydrologic impacts, in particular with respect to soil properties.