Synopsis: This study analyzed the effects of vegetation change on hydrological fluctuations in the Columbia River basin over the last century using two land cover scenarios. The first scenario was a reconstruction of historical land cover vegetation, c. 1900. The second scenario was more recent land cover as estimated from remote sensing data for 1990. The results show that, hydrologically, the most important vegetation-related change has been a general tendency towards decreased vegetation maturity in the forested areas of the basin. This general trend represents a balance between the effects of logging and fire suppression. In those areas where forest maturity has been reduced as a result of logging, wintertime maximum snow accumulations, and hence snow available for runoff during the spring melt season, have tended to increase, and evapotranspiration has decreased. The reverse has occurred in areas where fire suppression has tended to increase vegetation maturity, although the logging effect appears to dominate for most of the sub-basins evaluated. The study provides a broad- scale framework for assessing the vulnerability of watersheds to altered streamflow regimes attributable to changes in land cover that occur over large geographical areas and long time-frames. Threshold harvest areas required to produce a measurable increase in annual water yield: 15% for the Rocky Mtn/Inland Mtn area, 50% for the Central Plains region.
|journal||Hydrological Processes 14 (2000): 867-885|