Separation of the impact of climate change and human activity on streamflow in the upper and middle reaches of the Taoer River, northeastern China

Research paper by Bin Li, Hongbo Su, Fang Chen, Haibin Li, Renhua Zhang, Jing Tian, Shaohui Chen, Yongming Yang, Yuan Rong

Indexed on: 18 Dec '13Published on: 18 Dec '13Published in: Theoretical and Applied Climatology


The Taoer River, a representative ecologically sensitive area in Northeast China, has undergone great climate changes and rapid social developments since 1961. Subsequently, a substantial alteration of the streamflow regime was observed and severe eco-environmental problems were becoming prominent. To provide decision makers the scientific basis for effective resource management and sound future planning, it is crucial to understand and assess the impacts of the climate variability and human activities on streamflow in this region. In this study, we combined an observation-based statistical analysis and physical modeling experiments to address this broad question. The Mann–Kendall and Sen’s slope were used to examine the trends and the moving t test was used to identify change points for the streamflow, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration datasets. A statistically significant upward trend (α = 5 %) was found for annual streamflow. An abrupt change point was identified in 1985 for the basin outlet station at Taonan. Accordingly, the streamflow was divided into baseline and changed period for attribution analysis. To investigate the impacts of climate change and human activities on annual streamflow, we applied a distributed hydrological model and six Budyko-type functions during the two periods. The results indicated that climate change and human activities accounted for about 45 and 55 % of the changes in streamflow, respectively.