DOI: 10.3390/w15162920 ISSN:

A New Tool for Mapping Water Yield in Cold Alpine Regions

Linlin Zhao, Rensheng Chen, Yong Yang, Guohua Liu, Xiqiang Wang
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry

Watershed management requires reliable information about hydrologic ecosystem services (HESs) to support decision-making. In cold alpine regions, the hydrology regime is largely affected by frozen ground and snow cover. However, existing special models of ecosystem services usually ignore cryosphere elements (such as frozen ground and snow cover) when mapping water yield, which limits their application and promotion in cold alpine regions. By considering the effects of frozen ground and snow cover on water yield, a new version of the Seasonal Water Yield model (SWY) in the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs (InVEST) was presented and applied in the Three-River Headwaters Region (TRHR) in southeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Our study found that incorporating the effects of frozen ground and snow cover improved model performance. Frozen ground acts as a low permeable layer, reducing water infiltration, while snow cover affects water yield through processes of melting and sublimation. Both of these factors can significantly impact the distribution of spatial and temporal quickflow and baseflow. The annual average baseflow and water yield of the TRHR would be overestimated by 13 mm (47.58 × 108 m3/yr) and 14 mm (51.24 × 108 m3/yr), respectively, if the effect of snow cover on them is not considered. Furthermore, if the effect of frozen ground on water yield were not accounted for, there would be an average of 6 mm of quickflow misestimated as baseflow each year. Our study emphasizes that the effects of frozen ground and snow cover on water yield cannot be ignored, particularly over extended temporal horizons and in the context of climate change. It is crucial to consider their impacts on water resources in cold alpine regions when making water-related decisions. Our study widens the application of the SWY and contributes to water-related decision-making in cold alpine regions.

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