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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-214
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-214
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 May 2019

Research article | 20 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Are the effects of vegetation and soil changes as important as climate change impacts on hydrological processes?

Kabir Rasouli1,2, John W. Pomeroy2, and Paul H. Whitfield2,3 Kabir Rasouli et al.
  • 1Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada
  • 2Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK & Canmore, AB, T1W 3G1, Canada
  • 3Environment and Climate Change Canada, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Abstract. Hydrological processes are widely understood to be sensitive to changes in climate, but the effects of changes in vegetation and soils have seldom been considered. The response of mountain hydrology to future climate and vegetation/soil changes is modelled in three snowmelt dominated mountain basins in the North American Cordillera. A Cold Regions Hydrological Model developed for each basin was driven with perturbed observed meteorological time series. Monthly perturbations were developed from differences in eleven regional climate model outputs between the present and future scenarios. Future climate change in these basins results in decreased modelled peak snow water equivalent (SWE) but increased evapotranspiration in all basins. All three watersheds became more rainfall-dominated. In Wolf Creek in the Yukon Territory, an insignificant increasing effect of vegetation change on peak SWE was found to be important enough to offset the significant climate change effect on alpine snow. In Marmot Creek in the Canadian Rockies, a combined effect of soil and climate changes on increasing annual runoff becomes significant while their individual effects are not statistically significant. In the relatively warmer Reynolds Mountain East catchment in Idaho, USA, only vegetation change decreases annual runoff volume and changes in soil, climate, or combination of them do not affect runoff. At high elevations in Wolf and Marmot Creeks, modelled vegetation/soil changes moderated the impact of climate change on peak SWE, the timing of peak SWE, evapotranspiration, and annual runoff volume. At medium elevations, these changes intensified the impact of climate change, decreasing peak SWE, and sublimation. The modelled hydrological impacts of changes in climate, vegetation, and soil in mountain environments are similar in magnitude but not consistently in the direction in all biomes; in some combinations, this results in enhanced impacts at lower elevations and latitudes and offsetting effects at higher elevations and latitudes.

Kabir Rasouli et al.
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Kabir Rasouli et al.
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Hydrometeorological data collected at Wolf Creek Research Basin, Yukon Territory, Canada over 1993–2014 K. Rasouli, J. Pomeroy, J. R. Janowicz, T. Williams, and S. Carey https://doi.org/10.20383/101.0113

Kabir Rasouli et al.
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Short summary
The combined effects of changes in climate, vegetation, and soils on mountain hydrology have modelled in three mountain basins. In the Yukon Territory, an insignificant increasing effect of vegetation change on snow was found to be important enough to offset the climate change effect. In the Canadian Rockies, a combined effect of soil and climate change on runoff becomes significant while their individual effects are not significant. Only vegetation change decrease runoff in the basin in Idaho.
The combined effects of changes in climate, vegetation, and soils on mountain hydrology have...
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