Isolating the impacts of land use and climate change on streamflow
Abstract. Quantifying the isolated and integrated impacts of land use (LU) and climate change on streamflow is challenging as well as crucial to optimally manage water resources in river basins. This paper presents a simple hydrologic modeling-based approach to segregate the impacts of land use and climate change on the streamflow of a river basin. The upper Ganga basin (UGB) in India is selected as the case study to carry out the analysis. Streamflow in the river basin is modeled using a calibrated variable infiltration capacity (VIC) hydrologic model. The approach involves development of three scenarios to understand the influence of land use and climate on streamflow. The first scenario assesses the sensitivity of streamflow to land use changes under invariant climate. The second scenario determines the change in streamflow due to change in climate assuming constant land use. The third scenario estimates the combined effect of changing land use and climate over the streamflow of the basin. Based on the results obtained from the three scenarios, quantification of isolated impacts of land use and climate change on streamflow is addressed. Future projections of climate are obtained from dynamically downscaled simulations of six general circulation models (GCMs) available from the Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX) project. Uncertainties associated with the GCMs and emission scenarios are quantified in the analysis. Results for the case study indicate that streamflow is highly sensitive to change in urban areas and moderately sensitive to change in cropland areas. However, variations in streamflow generally reproduce the variations in precipitation. The combined effect of land use and climate on streamflow is observed to be more pronounced compared to their individual impacts in the basin. It is observed from the isolated effects of land use and climate change that climate has a more dominant impact on streamflow in the region. The approach proposed in this paper is applicable to any river basin to isolate the impacts of land use change and climate change on the streamflow.