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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 10 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5227-5241, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Oct 2018

Research article | 12 Oct 2018

Land cover effects on hydrologic services under a precipitation gradient

Ane Zabaleta1, Eneko Garmendia2,3, Petr Mariel4, Ibon Tamayo5, and Iñaki Antigüedad1 Ane Zabaleta et al.
  • 1Hidro-Environmental Processes Group, Science and Technology Faculty, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Leioa, 48940, Basque Country, Spain
  • 2Department of Applied Economics I, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Vitoria-Gasteiz, 01006, Spain
  • 3Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Parque Científico de UPV/EHU, Leioa, 48940, Spain
  • 4Department of Applied Economics III (Econometrics and Statistics), University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Bilbao, 48015, Spain
  • 5Department of Statistics, Harvard University, Cambridge, 02140, USA

Abstract. Climate change impacts on the hydrological cycle are altering the quantity, quality, and temporal distribution of riverine discharge, necessitating a more rigorous consideration of changes in land cover and land use. This study establishes relationships between different land cover combinations (e.g. percentages of forest – both native and exotic – and pastureland) and hydrological services, using hydrological indices estimated at annual and seasonal timescales in an area with a steep precipitation gradient (900–2600mmyr−1). Using discharge data from 20 catchments in the Bay of Biscay, a climate transition zone, the study applied multiple regression models to better understand how the interaction between precipitation and land cover combinations influence hydrological services. Findings showed the relationship between land cover combinations and hydrological services is highly dependent on the amount of precipitation, even in a climatically homogeneous and relatively small area. In general, in the Bay of Biscay area, the greater presence of any type of forests is associated with lower annual water resources, especially with greater percentages of exotic plantations and high annual precipitation. Where precipitation is low, forests show more potential to reduce annual and winter high flows than pasturelands, but this potential decreases as annual or seasonal precipitation increases. As annual precipitation increases, low flows increase as the percentage of exotic plantations decreases and pasturelands increase. Results obtained in this study improve understanding of the multiple effects of land cover on hydrological services, and illustrate the relevance of land planning to the management of water resources, especially under a climate change scenario.

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Short summary
This study establishes relationships between land cover and river discharge. Using discharge data from 20 catchments of the Bay of Biscay findings showed the influence of land cover on discharge changes with the amount of precipitation, with lower annual water resources associated with the greater presence of forests. Results obtained illustrate the relevance of land planning to the management of water resources and the opportunity to consider it in future climate-change adaptation strategies.
This study establishes relationships between land cover and river discharge. Using discharge...