Modeling the sedimentary response of a large Pyrenean basin to global change

Abstract

Purpose

Erosion processes at the catchment scale control a basin’s morphology and sediment patterns in the river network. Eroded sediments are transported and deposited downstream and may cause environmental problems and relevant effects on water storage and hydropower infrastructures. Quantification of water and sediment yield is complex due to the physical processes involved and their temporal and spatial variability, especially at the light of current global change.

Materials and methods

Numerical models that use spatially distributed information constitute a useful tool for these estimates, when sufficient input data are available. In this study, we applied the hydrological and sedimentological TETIS model to determine the patterns of water and sediment yield in a large mountain catchment. Flow discharge data obtained from two gauged stations were used for calibration and validation of the hydrological sub-model. Data from two reservoir bathymetries at the outlet of the study area were used for calibration of the sedimentological sub-model. After model calibration, several scenarios of climate and land use change were simulated.

Results and discussion

Climate scenarios show a general decrease in average annual precipitation and an increase in temperature, associated with an increase in extreme rainfall events. Global change scenarios lead to a counteracting effect between the increase in sediment transport during extreme events and the decrease in sediment erosion associated with afforestation following the abandonment of agricultural land. In the case of the most extreme climate scenario combined with total catchment deforestation, the model indicates a complete siltation of the reservoir by 2050.

Conclusions

Model performance emphasizes its potential as a tool for evaluating water and sediment yield for large catchments, as well as of its usefulness for water and sediment management in light of future climate and land use change scenarios.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the Biodiversity Conservation Plan of ENDESA S.A., within the A3 project “Analysis of the effects of global change on water resources and potential ecological status of water bodies in basins of high hydropower activity (Noguera Pallaresa, Lleida, Spain)”. Damià Vericat has a Ramon y Cajal Fellowship (RYC-2010-06264) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness. We thank Endesa Generación S.A. for the support during the bathymetric surveys in 2015. Finally, we acknowledge the support from the Economy and Knowledge Department of the Catalan Government through the Consolidated Research Groups: 2014 SGR 645 (RIUS—Fluvial Dynamics Research Group) and 2014 SGR 291 (ICRA—Catalan Institute for Water Research).

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Correspondence to Albert Herrero.

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Responsible editor: Jose Andres Lopez Tarazon

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Herrero, A., Buendía, C., Bussi, G. et al. Modeling the sedimentary response of a large Pyrenean basin to global change. J Soils Sediments 17, 2677–2690 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-017-1684-6

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Keywords

  • Global change
  • Hydrology
  • Reservoir siltation
  • River Noguera Pallaresa
  • Sediment yield
  • TETIS model