Runoff and sediment loads have exhibited significant changes over the past six decades in the Yellow River Basin, China. The current study evaluates the changing trends and regime shifts in runoff and sediment loads at both the annual and monthly time scales. The associated spatial and temporal variations are analyzed by a sequential t
-test analysis of the regime shifts (STARS) approach and the “breaks for additive seasonal and trend” (BFAST) model using hydrological data at eight stations from the 1950s to 2011. Both runoff and sediment loads exhibit significant declines (p
< 0.05), except in the upper reaches of the river near the Tangnaihai station. The regime shifts detected by the STARS approach are not completely consistent with the results from the BFAST method. In most cases, the regime shifts occurred in 1969 and 1986, due to the construction of large reservoirs. Climate change and other human activities, such as large-scale soil and water conservation measures, can result in abrupt changes in hydrological series at some stations. The trapping effects of reservoirs not only cause regime shifts of runoff and sediment loads, but also adjust their inter-annual and seasonal distributions. Various soil and water conservation measures are responsible for the significant reduction in runoff and sediment loads in the mid-lower reaches of the Yellow River Basin. In addition, water withdrawals from both river runoff and ground water play a critical role in the changing trends in runoff and indirectly alter the sediment loads. The findings provide a good reference for the effective promotion of climate change adaptation, water resources planning and river basin management.
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