The effect of forest harvesting and climatic variability on runoff in a large watershed: The case study in the Upper Minjiang River of Yangtze River basin
Zhang, M., X. Wei, P. Sun, and S. Liu, 2012: “The effect of forest harvesting and climatic variability on runoff in a large watershed: The case study in the Upper Minjiang River of Yangtze River basin.” Journal of Hydrology, v. 464–465, pp. 1-11, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.05.050.
Forest disturbance (or land cover change) and climatic variability are commonly recognized as two major drivers interactively influencing hydrology in forested watersheds. However, separating their relative contributions to hydrology is rarely examined, particularly in large watersheds (>1000 km2). This study used a large watershed, the Upper Zagunao River watershed, situated in the upper reach of the Minjiang River, the Yangtze River basin, China as an example to demonstrate how the effects of forest harvesting and climatic variability on hydrology can be quantitatively separated. Long-term data on climate, hydrology and forest harvesting history are available from 1953 to 1996. Time series cross-correlation analysis and non-parametric tests were performed first to identify possible responses of annual and seasonal runoff to forest harvesting, and to determine breakpoints of runoff change over its long-term time series. Then, modified double mass curve of accumulated annual effective precipitation (the residual of precipitation and evapotranspiration) and accumulated annual runoff was used to quantify the relative contributions of forest harvesting and climatic variability to annual runoff variation. Our analysis showed that the breakpoint of significant annual runoff change occurred in 1969, about 10 yrs after the intensive harvesting period of 1955–1962, suggesting the delayed hydrological response in the studied large watershed. Over the period of 1970–1996, the average annual runoff increment attributed to forest harvesting was 38 mm/yr, while the annual runoff variation attributed to climatic variability was −38.3 mm/yr, clearly demonstrating that forest harvesting and climatic variability had offsetting effects on annual runoff. Our results also disclosed that the positive effect of forest harvesting on runoff decreased with forest recovery and eventually diminished about 20 yrs after intensive harvesting period.