Decreased streamflow of the Yellow River basin has become the subject of considerable concern in recent years due to the critical importance of the water resources of the Yellow River basin for northern China. This study investigates the changing properties and underlying causes for the decreased streamflow by applying streamflow data for the period 1960 to 2014 to both the Budyko framework and the hydrological modelling techniques. The results indicate that (1) streamflow decreased 21% during the period 1980–2000, and decreased 19% during the period 2000–2014 when compared to 1960–1979; (2) higher precipitation and relative humidity boost streamflow, while maximum/minimum air temperature, solar radiation, wind speed, and the underlying parameter, n, all have the potential to adversely affect them; (3) decreased streamflow is also linked to increased cropland, grass, reservoir, urban land, and water areas and other human activities associated with GDP and population; (4) human activity is the main reason for the decrease of streamflow in the Yellow River basin, with the mean fractional contribution of 73.4% during 1980–2000 and 82.5% during 2001–2014. It is clear that the continuing growth of humaninduced impacts on streamflow likely to add considerable uncertainty to the management of increasingly scarce water resources. Overall, these results provide strong evidence to suggest that human activity is the key factor behind the decreased streamflow in the Yellow River basin.
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