Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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
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 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.
Citation: Salazar, J. F., Villegas, J. C., Rendón, A. M., Rodríguez, E., Hoyos, I., Mercado-Bettín, D., and Poveda, G.: Scaling properties reveal regulation of river flows in the Amazon through a forest reservoir, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 1735-1748, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-1735-2018, 2018.
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Short summary
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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