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Article

Modelling Water Flow and Soil Erosion in Mediterranean Headwaters (with or without Check Dams) under Land-Use and Climate Change Scenarios Using SWAT

1
Department Agraria, “Mediterranea” University of Reggio Calabria, Località Feo di Vito, I-89122 Reggio Calabria, Italy
2
Department of Agroforestry Technology, Science and Genetics, School of Advanced Agricultural and Forestry Engineering, Campus Universitario s/n, Castilla La Mancha University, E-02071 Albacete, Spain
3
Department of Civil, Energy, Environmental and Material Engineering (DICEAM), “Mediterranea” University of Reggio Calabria, Via Graziella, I-89122 Reggio Calabria, Italy
4
Department of Geography, University of Murcia, 30001 Murcia, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ian Prosser
Water 2022, 14(15), 2338; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14152338
Received: 28 June 2022 / Revised: 21 July 2022 / Accepted: 26 July 2022 / Published: 28 July 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hydrological Response to Climate Change)
The use of check dams is a common strategy to reduce soil erosion in the Mediterranean headwaters. However, the effects of these control works on water flow rates and sediment yields have been scarcely investigated under possible scenarios of climate and land-use changes. On this regard, the use of hydrological models, such as SWAT, provide reliable hydrological predictions under variable environmental conditions. To fill this gap, this study has evaluated the effectiveness of check dams on the hydrological response of a forest headwater in Calabria (Southern Italy) in comparison with an unregulated subcatchment with very similar environmental conditions. In this regard, the effects of different combined scenarios of climate change (through three GCMs and two RCPs applied to a time period of the next 80 years) and land use (forest, pasture, and cropland) on water flow rates and sediment yields in the two headwaters were analysed using the SWAT model. The SWAT model was first calibrated in a third headwater with very similar climatic, soil, and land-use conditions, and this verification showed a satisfactory prediction capacity of water flow rate. The water flow rate prediction capacity of the model was satisfactory (coefficients of determination and efficiency of Nash and Sutcliffe equal to 0.71 and 0.67, respectively, and percent bias of 14.9%). No significant differences were detected for the water flow rates and sediment yields between the two subcatchments (with or without check dams) among the different land-use and climate change scenarios. This was linked to the low hydrological response of both headwaters to the forcing actions, which influenced the low effectiveness of the control works. SWAT estimated higher values of both mean and maximum values of water flow rates and sediment yields under RCP2.6 compared with RCP8.5. Both water flow rates and sediment yields were predicted to be very low under all climate and land-use scenarios. The regulated headwater with check dams was predicted to always produce more runoff and erosion compared with the subcatchment without check dams. The increases were predicted to be up to 60% for the maximum flow rate and 30–35% for the sediment yield in forest land use under RCP2.6. Although there was a limitation in this study due to the lack of validation of the erosion data (due to unavailable records of sediment yield), this study demonstrated how the use of check dams in headwater catchments may be not effective for soil conservation purposes several decades after their installation in Mediterranean semiarid areas, where the water flow and erosion rate are limited. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil conservation; sediment yield; water flow rate; forest; pasture; cropland; representative concentration pathway; Global Circulation Model soil conservation; sediment yield; water flow rate; forest; pasture; cropland; representative concentration pathway; Global Circulation Model
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MDPI and ACS Style

Zema, D.A.; Carrà, B.G.; Lucas-Borja, M.E.; Filianoti, P.G.F.; Pérez-Cutillas, P.; Conesa-García, C. Modelling Water Flow and Soil Erosion in Mediterranean Headwaters (with or without Check Dams) under Land-Use and Climate Change Scenarios Using SWAT. Water 2022, 14, 2338. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14152338

AMA Style

Zema DA, Carrà BG, Lucas-Borja ME, Filianoti PGF, Pérez-Cutillas P, Conesa-García C. Modelling Water Flow and Soil Erosion in Mediterranean Headwaters (with or without Check Dams) under Land-Use and Climate Change Scenarios Using SWAT. Water. 2022; 14(15):2338. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14152338

Chicago/Turabian Style

Zema, Demetrio Antonio, Bruno Gianmarco Carrà, Manuel Esteban Lucas-Borja, Pasquale Giuseppe Fabio Filianoti, Pedro Pérez-Cutillas, and Carmelo Conesa-García. 2022. "Modelling Water Flow and Soil Erosion in Mediterranean Headwaters (with or without Check Dams) under Land-Use and Climate Change Scenarios Using SWAT" Water 14, no. 15: 2338. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14152338

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