The contributions of climate and land use/cover changes to water yield services considering geographic scale

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 9, October 2023
Zhu K., Cheng Y., Zhou Q., Kapolnai Z., David L.D.

Background: Water yield services are critical for maintaining ecological sustainability and regional economies. Climate change and land use/cover change (LUCC) significantly affect regional water yield, but the spatiotemporal variability of water yield services has been overlooked in previous studies. This study aims to explore the relative contributions of climate and land use/cover changes to water yield services at both grid and subwatershed scales. Methods: This study employed the InVEST model to calculate the water yield in the study area and employed a multi-scenario simulation approach to investigate the impacts of climate change and LUCC on water yield at both grid and subwatershed scales. Furthermore, the contributions of these two types of changes to water yield were quantified. Results: Firstly, upstream areas experience significantly lower annual average precipitation, temperature, and potential evapotranspiration than downstream areas, with worsening drought severity. Secondly, urbanization led to significant LUCC, with decreases in farmland and grassland and increases in forest, water, building land, and unused land. Thirdly, the spatial heterogeneity of water yield services remains consistent across different scales, but more pronounced spatial clustering is observed at the subwatershed scale. Fourthly, climate change is the primary factor affecting regional water yield services, surpassing the influence of LUCC. Lastly, LUCC significantly impacts water cycling in watersheds, with vegetation coverage being a critical factor affecting water yield. Conclusion: These findings highlight the need to consider the complex relationships between climate change, LUCC, and water yield services at multiple scales in water resource management.