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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-2019-397
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-397
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 15 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 15 Aug 2019

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

Impact of revegetation of the Loess Plateau of China on the regional growing season water balance

Jun Ge1,2, Andrew J. Pitman2, Weidong Guo1,3, Beilei Zan4,5, and Congbin Fu1,3 Jun Ge et al.
  • 1Institute for Climate and Global Change Research, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China
  • 2ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2052, Australia
  • 3Joint International Research Laboratory of Atmospheric and Earth System Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China
  • 4Key Laboratory of Land Surface Process and Climate Change in Cold and Arid Regions, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, 730000, China
  • 5University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China

Abstract. To resolve a series of ecological and environmental problems over the Loess Plateau, the Grain for Green Program (GFGP) was initiated at the end of 1990s. Following the conversion of croplands and bare land on hillslopes to forests, the Loess Plateau has displayed a significant greening trend with soil erosion being reduced. However, the GFGP has also affected the hydrology of the Loess Plateau which has raised questions whether the GFGP should be continued in the future. We investigated the impact of revegetation on the hydrology of the Loess Plateau using high resolution simulations and multiple realisations with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Results suggests that land cover change since the launch of the GFGP has reduced runoff and soil moisture due to enhanced evapotranspiration. Further revegetation associated with the GFGP policy is likely to increase evapotranspiration further, and thereby reduce runoff and soil moisture. The increase in evapotranspiration is associated with biophysical changes, including deeper roots that deplete deep soil moisture stores. However, despite the increase in evapotranspiration our results show no impact on rainfall. Our study cautions against further revegetation over the Loess Plateau given the reduction in water available for agriculture and human settlements, without any significant compensation from rainfall.

Jun Ge et al.
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Short summary
We investigate the impact of revegetation on the hydrology of the Loess Plateau based on high resolution simulation using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. We find past revegetation has caused decreased runoff and soil moisture with increased evapotranspiration and little response of rainfall over the Loess Plateau. WRF model suggest further revegetation can aggravate this water imbalance. We caution large-scale revegetation is unsustainable over the Loess Plateau.
We investigate the impact of revegetation on the hydrology of the Loess Plateau based on high...
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