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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 3
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 1735-1748, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-1735-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 1735-1748, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-1735-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 09 Mar 2018

Research article | 09 Mar 2018

Scaling properties reveal regulation of river flows in the Amazon through a forest reservoir

Juan Fernando Salazar1, Juan Camilo Villegas1,2, Angela María Rendón1, Estiven Rodríguez1, Isabel Hoyos3,4, Daniel Mercado-Bettín1, and Germán Poveda5 Juan Fernando Salazar et al.
  • 1GIGA, Escuela Ambiental, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
  • 2School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
  • 3GAIA, Escuela Ambiental, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
  • 4Instituto de Física, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
  • 5Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín, Departamento de Geociencias y Medio Ambiente, Facultad de Minas, Medellín, Colombia

Abstract. Many natural and social phenomena depend on river flow regimes that are being altered by global change. Understanding the mechanisms behind such alterations is crucial for predicting river flow regimes in a changing environment. Here we introduce a novel physical interpretation of the scaling properties of river flows and show that it leads to a parsimonious characterization of the flow regime of any river basin. This allows river basins to be classified as regulated or unregulated, and to identify a critical threshold between these states. We applied this framework to the Amazon river basin and found both states among its main tributaries. Then we introduce the forest reservoir hypothesis to describe the natural capacity of river basins to regulate river flows through land–atmosphere interactions (mainly precipitation recycling) that depend strongly on the presence of forests. A critical implication is that forest loss can force the Amazonian river basins from regulated to unregulated states. Our results provide theoretical and applied foundations for predicting hydrological impacts of global change, including the detection of early-warning signals for critical transitions in river basins.

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River flow regimes are being altered by global change. Understanding the mechanisms behind such alterations is crucial for hydrological prediction. We introduce a novel interpretation of river flow metrics (scaling) that allows any river basin to be classified as regulated or unregulated, and to identify transitions between these states. We propose the forest reservoir hypothesis to explain how forest loss can force the Amazonian river basins from regulated to unregulated states.
River flow regimes are being altered by global change. Understanding the mechanisms behind such...
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