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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 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2921-2935, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-2921-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2921-2935, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-2921-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 May 2018

Research article | 17 May 2018

Dendrohydrology and water resources management in south-central Chile: lessons from the Río Imperial streamflow reconstruction

Alfonso Fernández1, Ariel Muñoz2, Álvaro González-Reyes3, Isabella Aguilera-Betti2,4, Isadora Toledo2, Paulina Puchi2,5, David Sauchyn6, Sebastián Crespo2, Cristian Frene7, Ignacio Mundo8, Mauro González9, and Raffaele Vignola10 Alfonso Fernández et al.
  • 1Departamento de Geografía, Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
  • 2Instituto de Geografía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile
  • 3Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
  • 4Centro Transdisciplinario de Estudios Ambientales y Desarrollo Humano Sostenible (CEAM), Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
  • 5Dipartimento Territorio e Sistemi Agro-Forestali (TESAF), Università degli Studi di Padova, Agripolis, Italia
  • 6Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 7Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 8Instituto Argentino de Glaciología, Nivología and Ciencias Ambientales and Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
  • 9Instituto de Conservación, Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
  • 10Cátedra Latinoamericana en Decisiones Ambientales para el Cambio Global, Turrialba, Costa Rica

Abstract. Streamflow in south-central Chile (SCC,  ∼ 37–42°S) is vital for agriculture, forestry production, hydroelectricity, and human consumption. Recent drought episodes have generated hydrological deficits with damaging effects on these activities. This region is projected to undergo major reductions in water availability, concomitant with projected increases in water demand. However, the lack of long-term records hampers the development of accurate estimations of natural variability and trends. In order to provide more information on long-term streamflow variability and trends in SCC, here we report findings of an analysis of instrumental records and a tree-ring reconstruction of the summer streamflow of the Río Imperial ( ∼ 37°40′S–38°50′S). This is the first reconstruction in Chile targeted at this season. Results from the instrumental streamflow record ( ∼ 1940 onwards) indicated that the hydrological regime is fundamentally pluvial with a small snowmelt contribution during spring, and evidenced a decreasing trend, both for the summer and the full annual record. The reconstruction showed that streamflow below the average characterized the post-1980 period, with more frequent, but not more intense, drought episodes. We additionally found that the recent positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode has significantly influenced streamflow. These findings agree with previous studies, suggesting a robust regional signal and a shift to a new hydrological scenario. In this paper, we also discuss implications of these results for water managers and stakeholders; we provide rationale and examples that support the need for the incorporation of tree-ring reconstructions into water resources management.

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Short-term river discharge records hamper assessment of the severity of modern droughts in south-central Chile, making effective water management difficult. To support decision-making, we present a ~300-year tree-ring reconstruction of summer discharge for this region. Results show that since 1980, droughts have become more frequent and are related to a shift in large-scale climate. We argue that water managers should use this long-term view to better allocate water rights.
Short-term river discharge records hamper assessment of the severity of modern droughts in...
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