Assessment of climate change effects on vegetation and river hydrology in a semi-arid river basin

Jamal Hassan Ougahi (Lead / Corresponding author), Mark E. J. Cutler, Simon J. Cook

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Abstract

Climate change plays a key role in changing vegetation productivity dynamics, which ultimately affect the hydrological cycle of a watershed through evapotranspiration (ET). Trends and correlation analysis were conducted to investigate vegetation responses across the whole Upper Jhelum River Basin (UJRB) in the northeast of Pakistan using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), climate variables, and river flow data at inter-annual/monthly scales between 1982 and 2015. The spatial variability in trends calculated with the Mann-Kendall (MK) trend test on NDVI and climate data was assessed considering five dominant land use/cover types. The inter-annual NDVI in four out of five vegetation types showed a consistent increase over the 34-year study period; the exception was for herbaceous vegetation (HV), which increased until the end of the 1990s and then decreased slightly in subsequent years. In spring, significant (p<0.05) increasing trends were found in the NDVI of all vegetation types. Minimum temperature (Tmin) showed a significant increase during spring, while maximum temperature (Tmax) decreased significantly during summer. Average annual increase in Tmin (1.54°C) was much higher than Tmax (0.37°C) over 34 years in the UJRB. Hence, Tmin appears to have an enhancing effect on vegetation productivity over the UJRB. A significant increase in NDVI, Tmin and Tmax during spring may have contributed to reductions in spring river flow by enhancing evapotranspiration observed in the watershed of UJRB. These findings provide valuable information to improve our knowledge and understanding about the interlinkages between vegetation, climate and river flow at a watershed scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0271991
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022

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