Applications of GIS-Based Hydrological Models in Mountain Areas in Bulgaria for Ecosystem Services Assessment: Issues and Advantages



The application of hydrological models for the assessment of ecosystem services provides multiple opportunities for their quantitative analysis. Furthermore, Geographic Information System (GIS)-based models provide the possibility for spatially explicit analyses of model outputs and their representation in maps. A broadly applied and freely available hydrological model is the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The tool for its application in ArcGIS is ArcSWAT. The application of the model in mountain areas in Bulgaria can provide better understanding of the supply of ecosystem services and especially the water-related services, considering the large landscape diversity and climate differences within mountain watersheds. Still, data characteristics and limitations in Bulgaria can be restrictive for the quality of the model outputs.

ArcSWAT is created and actively supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Consequently, the soil and land cover typologies and their respective lookup tables that are built into the model database are based on freely available USA datasets. The climate database integrated in the model is from stations throughout the United States and does not cover other countries, which makes the application of the model outside the United States more complicated.

For Bulgaria, the most detailed soil and land cover datasets use Bulgarian typologies, which have rarely been correlated to European or global types, and no correlation with US typologies have been found in the literature. Additionally, vegetation information within the different natural and semi-natural land cover classes is not freely available. The access to daily climate data is also limited, especially for solar radiation, relative humidity, and wind speed, which are harder to collect than temperature and precipitation.

In this study we show how the application of the SWAT hydrological model in mountain watersheds in Bulgaria is possible, even with the existent data limitations. The test watershed used for that purpose is the Upper Ogosta watershed. The benefits of running the model for understanding of the hydrological cycle and the supply of ecosystem services within the area are discussed, as well as the issues and restrictions resulting from data limitations.


Ecosystem services SWAT Data Mountain areas Bulgaria 



The work for this study has been supported by the EU 7th Framework Program project SWAN (Sustainable Water ActioN; Grant agreement no: 294947), the “National, European, and Civilisational Dimensions of the Culture – Language – Media Dialogue” Programme of the “Alma Mater” University Complex for the Humanities at Sofia University “Saint Kliment Ohridski,” funded by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, Youth, and Science Scientific Research Fund, the joint Bulgarian-German Project “Ecosystem-based information system covering sensitive mountain areas in Bulgaria,” and the project ASCOR (Arsenic contamination of Ogosta River: Linking biogeochemical processes in floodplain soils with river system dynamics) of the Bulgarian–Swiss Research Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyNational Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy and Geography, Bulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Institute for Natural Resource ConservationUniversity of KielKielGermany

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