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Flow regime changes in three catchments with different landforms following ecological restoration in the Chinese Loess Plateau

Abstract

The Chinese Loess Plateau is known as one of the most severe soil erosion regions in the world. Two ecological restoration projects, i.e., the integrated soil conservation project since the 1970s and the “Grain for Green” project since 1999, have been progressively implemented to control the soil erosion in this area. Ecological restoration has greatly changed flow regime over the past five decades. However, the mechanism of how flow regime responds to ecological restoration among landforms remains poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the temporal dynamics of flow regime in three catchments, i.e., Wuqi, Honghe and Huangling hydrological stations, respectively representing the loess hilly-gully, loess table-gully and rocky mountain (covered by secondary forest) areas in the Chinese Loess Plateau, using daily hydrological data during the 1960s–2010s. The nonparametric Mann-Kendall test, Pettitt’s test and daily flow series were used to investigate the changes of flow regime. Significantly negative trends of annual streamflow were detected at the Wuqi and Honghe stations, except for the Huangling station. The annual baseflow at the Wuqi station showed a significantly positive trend whereas a significantly negative trend was observed at the Honghe station, and there was no significant trend at the Huangling station. It was interesting that baseflow index significantly increased during the whole period in all catchments. However, the trends and change points of daily flow series derived by different percentages of exceedance and extreme series in different consecutive days varied among individuals. Based on the change points analysis of annual streamflow, we divided data series into three periods, i.e., the baseline period (from 1959 and 1963 to 1979, PI), the integrated soil conservation period (1980–1999, PII) and the “Grain for Green” period (2000–2011, PIII). We found that streamflow decreased due to the reduction of high streamflow (exceeding 5% of time within a year) and median streamflow (50%) in PII and PIII at the Wuqi and Honghe stations. However, low flow (95%) increased in PII and PIII at the Wuqi station while decreased at the Honghe station. Streamflow change at the Huangling station was more stable, thus potentially resulting in much less soil erosion in the forestry area than in the other areas. The great improvement in ecological environment on the Chinese Loess Plateau revealed the advantages of ecological restoration in reducing flood amount and compensating streamflow at a regional scale.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0503705).

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Correspondence to Shi Qi.

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Luo, Z., Liu, E., Qi, S. et al. Flow regime changes in three catchments with different landforms following ecological restoration in the Chinese Loess Plateau. J. Arid Land 12, 44–57 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-019-0030-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-019-0030-9

Keywords

  • change point
  • extreme series
  • hydrological data
  • soil erosion
  • streamflow changes