Climate-vegetation-soil interactions and long-term hydrologic partitioning: signatures of catchment co-evolution

P. A. Troch, G. Carrillo, M. Sivapalan, T. Wagener, and K. Sawicz. Climate-vegetation-soil interactions and long-term hydrologic partitioning: signatures of catchment co-evolution, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 2209-2217, 2013, doi:10.5194/hess-17-2209-2013


Budyko (1974) postulated that long-term catchment water balance is controlled to first order by the available water and energy. This leads to the interesting question of how do landscape characteristics (soils, geology, vegetation) and climate properties (precipitation, potential evaporation, number of wet and dry days) interact at the catchment scale to produce such a simple and predictable outcome of hydrological partitioning? Here we use a physically-based hydrologic model separately parameterized in 12 US catchments across a climate gradient to decouple the impact of climate and landscape properties to gain insight into the role of climate-vegetation-soil interactions in long-term hydrologic partitioning. The 12 catchment models (with different paramterizations) are subjected to the 12 different climate forcings, resulting in 144 10 yr model simulations. The results are analyzed per catchment (one catchment model subjected to 12 climates) and per climate (one climate filtered by 12 different model parameterization), and compared to water balance predictions based on Budyko’s hypothesis (E/P = ϕ (Ep/P); E: evaporation, P: precipitation, Ep: potential evaporation). We find significant anti-correlation between average deviations of the evaporation index (E/P) computed per catchment vs. per climate, compared to that predicted by Budyko. Catchments that on average produce more E/P have developed in climates that on average produce less E/P, when compared to Budyko’s prediction. Water and energy seasonality could not explain these observations, confirming previous results reported by Potter et al. (2005). Next, we analyze which model (i.e., landscape filter) characteristics explain the catchment’s tendency to produce more or less E/P. We find that the time scale that controls subsurface storage release explains the observed trend. This time scale combines several geomorphologic and hydraulic soil properties. Catchments with relatively longer subsurface storage release time scales produce significantly more E/P. Vegetation in these catchments have longer access to this additional groundwater source and thus are less prone to water stress. Further analysis reveals that climates that give rise to more (less) E/P are associated with catchments that have vegetation with less (more) efficient water use parameters. In particular, the climates with tendency to produce more E/P have catchments that have lower % root fraction and less light use efficiency. Our results suggest that their exists strong interactions between climate, vegetation and soil properties that lead to specific hydrologic partitioning at the catchment scale. This co-evolution of catchment vegetation and soils with climate needs to be further explored to improve our capabilities to predict hydrologic partitioning in ungauged basins.

Download full paper

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) is an international two-stage open access journal for the publication of original research in hydrology, placed within a holistic Earth System Science context. The discussion and peer-review of submitted papers are handled in the open access discussion journal HESSD. Final papers, upon acceptance, appear in HESS (see Review Process under the heading Review).

HESS encourages and supports fundamental and applied research that seeks to understand the interactions between water, earth, ecosystems and man. A multi-disciplinary approach is encouraged that enables a broadening of the hydrologic perspective and the advancement of hydrologic science through the integration with other cognate sciences, and the cross-fertilization across disciplinary boundaries. HESS, therefore, has the ambition to serve not only the community of hydrologists, but all earth and life scientists, water engineers and water managers, who wish to publish original findings on the interactions between hydrological processes and other physical, chemical, biological and societal processes within the earth system, and the utilization of this holistic understanding towards sustainable management of water resources, water quality and water-related natural hazards.

The scope of HESS therefore encompasses:

  1. The role of physical, chemical and biological processes in the cycling of continental water in all its phases, including dissolved and particulate matter, at all scales, from the micro-scale processes of soil water to the global-scale processes underpinning hydro-climatology.
  2. The study of the spatial and temporal characteristics of the global water resources (solid, liquid and vapour) and related budgets, in all compartments of the Earth System (atmosphere, oceans, estuaries, rivers, lakes and land masses), including water stocks, residence times, interfacial fluxes, and the pathways between various compartments.
  3. The study of the interactions with human activity of all the processes, budgets, fluxes and pathways as outlined above, and the options for influencing them in a sustainable manner, particularly in relation to floods, droughts, desertification, land degradation, eutrophication, and other aspects of global change.

The journal will publish research articles, research and technical notes, opinion papers, book reviews, brief communications, and comments on papers published previously in HESS. Papers can address different techniques and approaches, including: theory, modelling, experiments or instrumentation. The journal covers the following Subject Areas and Techniques/Approaches, which are used to categorise papers:

Subject Areas:

  • Hillslope Hydrology;
  • Catchment Hydrology;
  • Global Hydrology;
  • Rivers and Lakes;
  • Coasts and Estuaries;
  • Hydrometeorology;
  • Vadose Zone Hydrology;
  • Groundwater Hydrology;
  • Ecohydrology;
  • Biogeochemical Processes;
  • Urban Hydrology;
  • Engineering Hydrology;
  • Water Resources Management.

Techniques and Approaches:

  • Theory Development;
  • Modelling Approaches;
  • Instruments and Observation Techniques;
  • Remote Sensing and GIS;
  • Mathematical Applications;
  • Stochastic Approaches;
  • Uncertainty Analysis.

More at Hydrology and Earth System Sciences homepage


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s