Human activity and climate variability impacts on sediment discharge and runoff in the Yellow River of China

Abstract

We analyze the variability of sediment discharge and runoff in the Hekou–Longmen segment in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, China. Our analysis is based on Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), sediment discharge, runoff, and monthly meteorological data (1961–2010). The climate conditions are controlled via monthly regional average precipitation and potential evapotranspiration (ET0) that are calculated with the Penman–Monteith method. Data regarding water and soil conservation infrastructure and their effects were investigated as causal factors of runoff and sediment discharge changes. The results indicated the following conclusions: (1) The sediment concentration, sediment discharge, and annual runoff, varied considerably during the study period and all of these factors exhibited larger coefficients of variation than ET0 and precipitation. (2) Sediment discharge, annual runoff, and sediment concentration significantly declined over the study period in a linear fashion. This was accompanied by an increase in ET0 and decline in precipitation that were not significant. (3) Within paired years with similar precipitation and potential evapotranspiration conditions (SPEC), all pairs showed a decline in runoff, sediment discharge, and sediment concentration. (4) Human impacts in this region were markedly high as indicated by NDVI, and soil and water measurements, and especially the soil and water conservation infrastructure resulting in an approximately 312 Mt year−1 of sediment deposition during 1960–1999.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation of China [41171420 and 41271295], the External Cooperation Program of BIC, Chinese Academy of Sciences [16146KYSB20150001], the European Commission Programme Horizon 2020 project [635750], the West Light Foundation of The Chinese Academy of Sciences [2013-165-04], and the National Key Basic Research Special Foundation of China [2014FY210100].

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Correspondence to Fei Wang.

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He, Y., Wang, F., Mu, X. et al. Human activity and climate variability impacts on sediment discharge and runoff in the Yellow River of China. Theor Appl Climatol 129, 645–654 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-016-1796-8

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Keywords

  • Normalize Difference Vegetation Index
  • Sediment Concentration
  • Potential Evapotranspiration
  • Annual Runoff
  • Middle Reach