Future climate and land uses effects on flow and nutrient loads of a Mediterranean catchment in South Australia.

Abstract

Mediterranean catchments experience already high seasonal variability alternating between dry and wet periods, and are more vulnerable to future climate and land use changes. Quantification of catchment response under future changes is particularly crucial for better water resources management. This study assessed the combined effects of future climate and land use changes on water yield, total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) loads of the Mediterranean Onkaparinga catchment in South Australia by means of the eco-hydrological model SWAT. Six different global climate models (GCMs) under two representative concentration pathways (RCPs) and a hypothetical land use change were used for future simulations. The climate models suggested a high degree of uncertainty, varying seasonally, in both flow and nutrient loads; however, a decreasing trend was observed. Average monthly TN and TP load decreased up to -55% and -56% respectively and were found to be dependent on flow magnitude. The annual and seasonal water yield and nutrient loads may only slightly be affected by envisaged land uses, but significantly altered by intermediate and high emission scenarios, predominantly during the spring season. The combined scenarios indicated the possibility of declining flow in future but nutrient enrichment in summer months, originating mainly from the land use scenario, that may elevate the risk of algal blooms in downstream drinking water reservoir. Hence, careful planning of future water resources in a Mediterranean catchment requires the assessment of combined effects of multiple climate models and land use scenarios on both water quantity and quality.

DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.02.197