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Water 2017, 9(12), 966; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9120966

Climate Change Impacts on Flow and Suspended Sediment Yield in Headwaters of High-Latitude Regions—A Case Study in China’s Far Northeast

1
State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China
2
School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
3
College of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Guangxi University, Nanning 530004, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 October 2017 / Revised: 15 November 2017 / Accepted: 7 December 2017 / Published: 11 December 2017
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Abstract

Climate change is expected to have stronger effects on water resources in higher latitude regions. Despite intensive research on possible hydrological responses in those regions to a warmer environment, our knowledge on erosion and sediment yield induced by the climate change in high-latitude headwaters is still limited. In this study, we estimated suspended sediment yields from 2021 to 2050 in a typical headwater area of far Northeast China to elucidate potential impacts of future climate change on surface runoff and erosion in higher latitude regions. We first parameterized the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) using historical measurements to estimate runoff from the river basin. The model performed well in both the calibration (2006–2011) and the validation (2012–2014) periods, with an R2 of 0.85 and 0.88 and a Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) of 0.7 and 0.73, respectively. We also utilized historical measurements on sediment yields from the period 2006–2014 to develop a runoff-sediment yield rating curve, and the rating curve obtained an excellent goodness of fit (R2 = 0.91, p < 0.001). We then applied the calibrated SWAT model to two climate change projections, also known as Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), for the period from 2021 to 2050 to obtain future runoff estimates. These runoff estimates were then used to predict future sediment yield by using the developed runoff-sediment yield rating curve. Our study found a significant increase of annual sediment yield (p < 0.05) for both climate change projections (RCP4.5 = 237%; RCP8.5 = 133%) in this, China’s high-latitude region. The increases of sediment yield were prevalent in summer and autumn, varying from 102–299% between the two RCPs scenarios. Precipitation was the dominated factor that determined the variation of runoff and sediment yield. A warming climate could bring more snowmelt-induced spring runoff and longer rainy days in autumn, hence leading to higher erosion. These findings demonstrate that under the changing climate, soils in this high-latitude headwater area would be eroded twice to three times that of the baseline period (1981–2010), indicating a potential risk to the downstream water quality and reservoir management. View Full-Text
Keywords: high-latitude regions; climate change; headwaters; sediment yield and erosion; Northeast China high-latitude regions; climate change; headwaters; sediment yield and erosion; Northeast China
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Zhou, Y.; Xu, Y.J.; Xiao, W.; Wang, J.; Huang, Y.; Yang, H. Climate Change Impacts on Flow and Suspended Sediment Yield in Headwaters of High-Latitude Regions—A Case Study in China’s Far Northeast. Water 2017, 9, 966.

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