Predicting Monsoonal-Driven Stream Discharge and Sediment Yield in Himalaya Mountain Basins with Changing Climate and Deforestation

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ram P Neupane and Joseph D White, Baylor Univ, Waco, TX, United States
Short and long term effects of site water availability impacts the spectrum of management outcomes including landslide risk, hydropower generation, and sustainable agriculture in mountain systems heavily influenced by climate and land use changes. Climate change and land use may predominantly affect the hydrologic cycle of mountain basins as soil precipitation interception is affected by land cover. Using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool, we estimated stream discharge and sediment yield associated with climate and land use changes for two Himalaya basins located at eastern and western margins of Nepal that included drainages of the Tamor and Seti Rivers. Future climate change was modeled using average output of temperature and precipitation changes derived from Special Report on Emission Scenarios (B1, A1B & A2) of 16 global circulation models for 2080 as meteorological inputs into SWAT. Land use change was modeled spatially and included 1) deforestation, 2) expansion of agricultural land, and 3) increased human settlement that were produced by considering current land use with projected changes associated with viability of elevation and slope characteristics of the basins capable of supporting different land use types. We found higher annual stream discharge in all GCM-derived scenarios compared to the baseline with maximum increases of 13 and 8% in SRES-A2 and SRES-A1B for the Tamor and Seti basins, respectively. With 7% of original forest land removed, sediment yield for Tamor basin was estimated to be 65% higher, but increased to 124% for the SRES-B1 scenario. For the Seti basin, 4% deforestation yielded 33% more sediment for the SRES-A1B scenario. Our results indicated that combined effects of future, intensified monsoon rainfall with deforestation lead to dramatic potential for increased stream discharge and sediment yield as rainfall on steep slopes with thin exposed soils increases surface runoff and soil erosion in the Himalayas. This effect appears to be geographically important with higher influence in the eastern Tamor basin potentially due to longer and stronger monsoonal period of that area. Future slope stability and sediment deposition in downstream reservoirs are important future potential vulnerabilities for these basins of which land management plays an important mediating role.