Impact of Climatic and Land Use Changes on River Flows in the Southern Alps

  • Roberto RanziEmail author
  • Paolo Caronna
  • Massimo Tomirotti


River flow time series are far from being stationary and always experienced changes in the past, also dramatic in long time horizons. In recent years it seems that both climatic and anthropogenic factors are accelerating the variability of hydrological processes. It is not clear, however, whether climatic or anthropic factors represent the major forcing to the hydrological cycle. Long-term statistics, lasting over 150 years, of annual runoff for the five major Italian rivers in the Central Alps are presented and compared with precipitation, temperature and land use changes. A homogeneous decreasing trend of annual runoff is observed, and the significance of such a trend at the local and regional scale is tested with Mann-Kendall, Sen-Theil and Sen-Adichie statistical tests. It is shown that for some rivers, the increased agricultural water demand and land use changes are a likely major source of non-stationarity, possibly more relevant than meteorological ones. A natural feedback which is being observed also at the global scale is discussed on the basis of land use in the Adige river basin by comparing cadastral maps of the mid-nineteenth century with recent aerial photographs in four sample areas. Results are consistent with the reduced speed of deforestation observed at the global scale and the natural afforestation observed in Europe occurring over the last decades. This process can play a major role in regulating the hydrological cycle and mitigating flood and drought extremes, but also enhancing evapotranspiration losses and thus reducing runoff volumes.


River flow regime Runoff Trends Climatic change Anthropogenic changes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Ranzi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paolo Caronna
    • 1
  • Massimo Tomirotti
    • 1
  1. 1.DICATAM, University of BresciaBresciaItaly

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