Modeling hydrological impacts of afforestation on intermittent streams

Ali Azarnivand, Matteo Camporese, Sina Alaghmand, Edoardo Daly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Although the majority of river networks across the world are intermittent or ephemeral, afforestation management of these catchments is mostly founded on studies in perennial catchments. The hydrological model CATHY (CATchment HYdrology) was used here to simulate the effects that different degrees of progressive conversion from pasture to plantation have on the streamflow generation in intermittent streams. The model was applied to two rural catchments with different size and topographic features in southwest Victoria, Australia. Simulated scenarios included different levels of plantation establishment in pasture areas planting gradually from downslope to upslope and vice versa. Different models for root water uptake were compared to account for water stress, oxygen stress, and root water compensation. A function of root growth over time was also explored to see how it affected model results. The model results show that complex interactions between topographic features and afforestation patterns are crucial in controlling catchments hydrological behavior. In particular, results show that planting in the prone-saturation areas has the largest effects on streamflow. Oxygen stress has a more significant impact than root water compensation on streamflow changes. A time dependent root growth results in smaller streamflow reduction on average, although with different impacts on the two catchments, also due to the interplay between topography and plantation patterns. Overall, our results show that there are multiple factors affecting the water balance when a catchment is partially or completely afforested and those must be taken into account when implementing forestry management strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number138748
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Land-use
  • Afforestation
  • Intermittent streams
  • Integrated hydrological modeling
  • Subsurface-surface water interaction

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