University of Oulu

Nasim Fazel, Ali Torabi Haghighi, Bjørn Kløve, Analysis of land use and climate change impacts by comparing river flow records for headwaters and lowland reaches, Global and Planetary Change, Volume 158, 2017, Pages 47-56, ISSN 0921-8181,

Analysis of land use and climate change impacts by comparing river flow records for headwaters and lowland reaches

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Author: Fazel, Nasim1; Torabi Haghighi, Ali1; Kløve, Björn1
Organizations: 1Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-12-03


The natural flow regime of rivers has been strongly altered world-wide, resulting in ecosystem degradation and lakes drying up, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Determining whether this is due mainly to climate change or to water withdrawal for direct human use (e.g. irrigation) is difficult, particularly for saline lake basins where hydrology data are scarce. In this study, we developed an approach for assessing climate and land use change impacts based on river flow records for headwater and lowland reaches of rivers, using the case of Lake Urmia basin, in north-westen Iran. Flow regimes at upstream and downstream stations were studied before and after major dam construction and irrigation projects. Data from 57 stations were used to establish five different time intervals representing 10 different land use development periods (scenarios) for upstream (not impacted) and downstream (impacted) systems. An existing river impact (RI) index was used to assess changes in three main characteristics of flow (magnitude, timing and, intra-annual variability). The results showed that irrigation was by far the main driving force for river flow regime changes in the lake basin. All stations close to the lake and on adjacent plains showed significantly higher impacts of land use change than headwaters. As headwaters are relatively unaffected by agriculture, the non-significant changes observed in headwater flow regimes indicate a minor effect of climate change on river flows in the region. The benefit of the method developed is clear interpretation of results based on river flow records, which is useful in communicating land use and climate change information to decision makers and lake restoration planners.

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Series: Global and planetary change
ISSN: 0921-8181
ISSN-E: 1872-6364
ISSN-L: 0921-8181
Volume: 158
Pages: 47 - 56
DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2017.09.014
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
1172 Environmental sciences
Copyright information: © 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license