Hydrological predictions in ungauged lakes are one of the most important issues in hydrological sciences. The habitat of the Relict Gull (Larus relictus) in the Erdos Larus relictus National Nature Reserve (ELRNNR) has been seriously endangered by lake shrinkage, yet the hydrological processes in the catchment are poorly understood due to the lack of in-situ observations. Therefore, it is necessary to assess the variation in lake streamflow and its drivers. In this study, we employed the remote sensing technique and empirical equation to quantify the time series of lake water budgets, and integrated a water balance model and climate elasticity method to further examine ELRNNR basin streamflow variations from1974 to 2013. The results show that lake variations went through three phases with significant differences: The rapidly expanding sub-period (1974–1979), the relatively stable sub-period (1980–1999), and the dramatically shrinking sub-period (2000–2013). Both climate variation (expressed by precipitation and evapotranspiration) and human activities were quantified as drivers of streamflow variation, and the driving forces in the three phases had different contributions. As human activities gradually intensified, the contributions of human disturbances on streamflow variation obviously increased, accounting for 22.3% during 1980–1999 and up to 59.2% during 2000–2013. Intensified human interferences and climate warming have jointly led to the lake shrinkage since 1999. This study provides a useful reference to quantify lake streamflow and its drivers in ungauged basins.
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