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Journal of Arid Land  2013, Vol. 5 Issue (3): 366-383    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-013-0162-2
Research Articles     
Understanding the impact of mountain landscapes on water balance in the upper Heihe River watershed in northwestern China
Jia QIN1,2*, YongJian DING1,2, JinKui WU1,2, MingJie GAO1, ShuHua YI1, ChuanCheng ZHAO1, BaiSheng YE1, Man LI1,2, ShengXia WANG1,2
1 State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China;
2 Division of Hydrology Water-Land Resources in Cold and Arid Regions, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 73000, China
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Abstract  Estimating the impact of mountain landscape on hydrology or water balance is essential for the sustainable development strategies of water resources. Specifically, understanding how the change of each landscape influences hydrological components will greatly improve the predictability of hydrological responses to mountain landscape changes and thus can help the government make sounder decisions. In the paper, we used the VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) model to conduct hydrological modeling in the upper Heihe River watershed, along with a frozen-soil module and a glacier melting module to improve the simulation. The improved model performed satisfactorily. We concluded that there are differences in the runoff generation of mountain landscape both in space and time. About 50% of the total runoff at the catchment outlet were generated in mid-mountain zone (2,900–4,000 m asl), and water was mainly consumed in low mountain region (1,700–2,900 m asl) because of the higher re-quirements of trees and grasses. The runoff coefficient was 0.37 in the upper Heihe River watershed. Barren landscape produced the largest runoff yields (52.46% of the total runoff) in the upper Heihe River watershed, fol-lowed by grass¬land (34.15%), shrub (9.02%), glacier (3.57%), and forest (0.49%). In order to simulate the impact of landscape change on hydrological components, three landscape change scenarios were designed in the study. Scenario 1, 2 and 3 were to convert all shady slope landscapes at 2,000–3,300 m, 2,000–3,700 m, and 2,000–4,000 m asl respectively to forest lands, with forest coverage rate increased to 12.4%, 28.5% and 42.0%, respectively. The runoff at the catchment outlet correspondingly declined by 3.5%, 13.1% and 24.2% under the three scenarios. The forest landscape is very important in water conservation as it reduced the flood peak and in-creased the base flow. The mountains as “water towers” play important roles in water resources generation and the impact of mountain land¬scapes on hydrology is significant.

Key wordswetland      soil degradation      wetland reclamation      continuous cultivation      Horqin Sandy Land     
Received: 30 October 2012      Published: 10 September 2013

This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foun-dation of China (41130638), the key innovation project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-QN310) and the National Science and Technology Support Program (2013BAB05B03).

Corresponding Authors: Jia QIN     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Jia QIN, YongJian DING, JinKui WU, MingJie GAO, ShuHua YI, ChuanCheng ZHAO, BaiSheng YE, Man LI, ShengXia WANG. Understanding the impact of mountain landscapes on water balance in the upper Heihe River watershed in northwestern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(3): 366-383.

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