Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-204
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-204

  20 Apr 2021

20 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

The importance of ecosystem adaptation on hydrological model predictions in response to climate change

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz1,2, Emma E. Aalbers3,4, Albrecht H. Weerts2,5, Mark Hegnauer2, Hendrik Buiteveld6, Rita Lammersen6, Jasper Stam6, Eric Sprokkereef6, Hubert H. G. Savenije1, and Markus Hrachowitz1 Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.
  • 1Department of Water Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5048, NL-2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands
  • 2Department Catchment and Urban Hydrology, Deltares, Boussinesqweg 1, 2629 HV Delft, The Netherlands
  • 3Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), P.O. Box 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, the Netherlands
  • 4Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, the Netherlands
  • 5Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University and Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 6Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Zuiderwagenplein 2, 8224 AD Lelystad, The Netherlands

Abstract. To predict future hydrological behavior in a changing world, often use is made of models calibrated on past observations, disregarding that hydrological systems, hence model parameters, will change as well. Yet, ecosystems likely adjust their root-zone storage capacity, which is the key parameter of any hydrological system, in response to climate change. In addition, other species might become dominant, both under natural and anthropogenic influence. In this study, we propose a top-down approach, which directly uses projected climate data to estimate how vegetation adapts its root-zone storage capacity at the catchment scale in response to changes in magnitude and seasonality of hydro-climatic variables. Additionally, the Budyko characteristics of different dominant ecosystems in sub-catchments are used to simulate the hydrological behavior of potential future land-use change, in a space-for-time exchange. We hypothesize that changes in the predicted hydrological response as a result of 2 K global warming are more pronounced when explicitly considering changes in the sub-surface system properties induced by vegetation adaptation to changing environmental conditions. We test our hypothesis in the Meuse basin in four scenarios designed to predict the hydrological response to 2 K global warming in comparison to current-day conditions using a process-based hydrological model with (a) a stationary system, i.e. no changes in the root-zone storage capacity of vegetation and historical land use, (b) an adapted root-zone storage capacity in response to a changing climate but with historical land use, and (c, d) an adapted root-zone storage capacity considering two hypothetical changes in land use from coniferous plantations/agriculture towards broadleaved forest and vice-versa. We found that the larger root-zone storage capacities (+34 %) in response to a more pronounced seasonality with drier summers under 2 K global warming strongly alter seasonal patterns of the hydrological response, with an overall increase in mean annual evaporation (+4 %), a decrease in recharge (−6 %) and a decrease in streamflow (−7 %), compared to predictions with a stationary system. By integrating a time-dynamic representation of changing vegetation properties in hydrological models, we make a potential step towards more reliable hydrological predictions under change.

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-204', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 May 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-204', Anonymous Referee #2, 26 May 2021
  • RC3: 'Comment on hess-2021-204', Anonymous Referee #3, 15 Jun 2021

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.

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Short summary
Assuming stationarity of hydrological systems may no longer apply if we consider land-use and climate change. We propose an approach to estimate how vegetation adapts its root-zone storage capacity at the catchment scale in response to changes in land use and hydro-climatic variables. We implement non-stationarity in the root-zone storage capacity and quantify a 34 % increase of this parameter under +2 K global warming leading to a 7 % decrease of streamflow, compared to a stationary system.