Changes in the Freshwater System : Distinguishing Climate and Landscape Drivers

Abstract: Freshwater is a vital resource that circulates between the atmosphere, the land and the sea. Understanding and quantifying changes to the partitioning of precipitation into evapotranspiration, runoff and water storage change in the landscape are required for assessing changes to freshwater availability. However, the partitioning processes and their changes are complex due to multiple change drivers and effects. This thesis investigates and aims to identify and separate the effects of atmospheric climate change and various landscape drivers on long-term freshwater change. This is done based on hydroclimatic, land-use and water-use data from the beginning of the twentieth century up to present times and across different regions and scales, from catchment to global. The analyzed landscape drivers include historic developments of irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture and flow regulation. The thesis uses and develops further a data-motivated approach to interpret available hydroclimatic and landscape data for identification of water change drivers and effects, expanding the approach application from local to continental and global scales. Based on this approach development, the thesis identifies hydroclimatic change signals of landscape drivers against the background of multiple coexisting drivers influencing worldwide freshwater change, within and among hydrological basins. Globally, landscape drivers are needed to explain more than 70% of the historic hydroclimatic changes, of which a considerable proportion may be directly human-driven. These landscape- and human-driven water changes need to be considered and accounted for also in modeling and projection of changes to the freshwater system on land.

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