Articles | Volume 20, issue 4
Research article
22 Apr 2016
Research article |  | 22 Apr 2016

Impacts of land use change and climate variations on annual inflow into the Miyun Reservoir, Beijing, China

Jiangkun Zheng, Ge Sun, Wenhong Li, Xinxiao Yu, Chi Zhang, Yuanbo Gong, and Lihua Tu

Abstract. The Miyun Reservoir, the only surface water source for Beijing city, has experienced water supply decline in recent decades. Previous studies suggest that both land use change and climate contribute to the changes of water supply in this critical watershed. However, the specific causes of the decline in the Miyun Reservoir are debatable under a non-stationary climate in the past 4 decades. The central objective of this study was to quantify the separate and collective contributions of land use change and climate variability to the decreasing inflow into the Miyun Reservoir during 1961–2008. Different from previous studies on this watershed, we used a comprehensive approach to quantify the timing of changes in hydrology and associated environmental variables using the long-term historical hydrometeorology and remote-sensing-based land use records. To effectively quantify the different impacts of the climate variation and land use change on streamflow during different sub-periods, an annual water balance model (AWB), the climate elasticity model (CEM), and a rainfall–runoff model (RRM) were employed to conduct attribution analysis synthetically. We found a significant (p  <  0.01) decrease in annual streamflow, a significant positive trend in annual potential evapotranspiration (p  <  0.01), and an insignificant (p  >  0.1) negative trend in annual precipitation during 1961–2008. We identified two streamflow breakpoints, 1983 and 1999, by the sequential Mann–Kendall test and double-mass curve. Climate variability alone did not explain the decrease in inflow to the Miyun Reservoir. Reduction of water yield was closely related to increase in actual evapotranspiration due to the expansion of forestland and reduction in cropland and grassland, and was likely exacerbated by increased water consumption for domestic and industrial uses in the basin. The contribution to the observed streamflow decline from land use change fell from 64–92 % during 1984–1999 to 36–58 % during 2000–2008, whereas the contribution from climate variation climbed from 8–36 % during the 1984–1999 to 42–64 % during 2000–2008. Model uncertainty analysis further demonstrated that climate warming played a dominant role in streamflow reduction in the most recent decade (i.e., 2000s). We conclude that future climate change and variability will further challenge the water supply capacity of the Miyun Reservoir to meet water demand. A comprehensive watershed management strategy needs to consider the climate variations besides vegetation management in the study basin.

Short summary
Our study represents the most comprehensive study on the combined effects of environmental change in streamflow using three different hydrological models. It revealed that climate change impacts exceeded land cover change in the 2000s. Considering the effect of climate changes on water supply, some active land management and water resources management options are discussed.