4 years ago

Reforestation-induced changes of landscape composition and configuration modulate freshwater supply and flooding risk of tropical watersheds

Mei Yu, Qiong Gao

by Qiong Gao, Mei Yu

Impact of changes in land cover and land use on hydrological service of tropical watersheds is one of the focal research tropics in both hydrology and Land Cover Land Use Changes (LCLUC). Land fragmentation is an important feature of LCLUC, however, its impact on hydrological service of tropical watershed is unclear despite a few theoretical frameworks. In this paper, we described a simulation study of eight tropical watersheds in Puerto Rico using the Soil Water Assessment Tool. Annual average stream discharge was derived according to the simulations with the land cover maps in 1977, 1991, and 2000. Annual big stream discharge with risks of flooding and severe soil erosion was computed as the sum of daily discharge greater than 95th percentile. The impacts of changes in land cover and fragmentation represented by perimeter-to-area ratio of land patches on annual average and big discharges were further analyzed by means of the linear mixed-effects model. Most mountainous watersheds were characterized by reforestation in 1977–1991 but slight deforestation in 1991–2000. Forest perimeter-to-area ratio was significantly correlated with covers of forest (correlation coefficient of -0.97), pasture (0.94), and urban (0.95). Thus forest fragmentation was reduced by reforestation but increased by deforestation. The annual average and big discharges were significantly reduced by forest cover and forest perimeter-to-area ratio. The enhanced edge effect by forest fragmentation may have incurred more effective interception of the subsurface flow by forest root system, and promoted forest transpiration, thus reduced stream flows. Land cover change plays more important roles in regulating the big discharges than altering the annual average discharges. Due to the negative correlation between forest cover and fragmentation, the decreased forest fragmentation accompanied with reforestation offsets the impact of reforestation on lessening freshwater supply and flooding risk.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181315

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