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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-550
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Oct 2017

Research article | 04 Oct 2017

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The revised manuscript was not accepted.

Global synthesis of forest cover effects on long-term water balance partitioning in large basins

Daniel Mercado-Bettín, Juan F. Salazar, and Juan Camilo Villegas Daniel Mercado-Bettín et al.
  • Grupo GIGA, Escuela Ambiental, Facultad de Ingeniería. Universidad de Antioquia. Medellín, Colombia

Abstract. Global changes in forest cover have been related to major scientific and social challenges. There are important uncertainties about the potential effects of ongoing forest loss on continental water balances. Here we present an observation-based analysis of long-term water balance partitioning (precipitation divided into evaporation and runoff) in 22 large basins of the world, whereby we identify two partitioning patterns likely related to biophysical mechanisms that depend on the presence and abundance of forests. In less forested basins, evaporation dominates water balance and, as forest cover increases, this dominance of evaporation over runoff is reduced. When forest is the predominant cover, both components account for nearly half of precipitation in the long-term water balance. The distinction between these two patterns is not fully explained by differences between water- and energy-limited environments, but requires consideration of other biophysical properties that affect precipitation and its conversion into evaporation and runoff. Our results indicate that forest cover is an effective descriptor of basin attributes that are relevant for characterizing long-term water balance partitioning in large basins of the world. Further, our results provide insights to understanding and predicting the potential consequences of forest loss on continental water availability, a critical determinant for multiple ecological and societal processes.

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Daniel Mercado-Bettín et al.
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Daniel Mercado-Bettín et al.
Daniel Mercado-Bettín et al.
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Short summary
Global changes in forest cover have been related to major scientific and social challenges. There are important uncertainties about the potential effects of ongoing forest loss on water cycle. Here we analysis the division of rainfall in evaporation and runoff (water in rivers) and the presence or absence of forest in 22 large regions. We found that in less forested regions, evaporation dominates the division while in more forested regions rainfall is equally divided into evaporation and runoff.
Global changes in forest cover have been related to major scientific and social challenges....
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