Temporal variation of streamflow, sediment load and their relationship in the Yellow River Basin, China

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Abstract

Variation of streamflow and sediment load in the Yellow River basin has received considerable attention due to its drastic reduction during the past several decades. This paper presents a detailed investigation on the changes of streamflow and sediment load from 1952 to 2011 using monthly observations at four gauging stations along the Yellow River. The results show significant decreasing trends for both streamflow and sediment load at all four gauging stations over the past 60 years. The wavelet transform demonstrated discontinuous periodicities from 1969 to 1973 and after 1986 due to the construction of large reservoirs and implementation of numerous soil and water conservations practices. The sediment rating curves with the power-law function was applied to investigate the relationship between discharge and sediment load. The results indicate distinct variations of the relationship between streamflow and sediment and implied significant hydro-morphological changes within different periods. The reducing sediment supply from the source region and the increased erosive power of the river are detected at Lanzhou station, while the decrease of the transport capacity at Toudaoguai is caused by severe siltation. Significant changes in the relationship between streamflow and sediment load are found at Huayuankou and Gaocun stations, which are largely induced by evident sediment income and trapping effects of large reservoirs. It is estimated that numerous reservoirs have strongly altered the regime and magnitude of streamflow and trapped large amount of sediment, leading to severe siltation and evident reduction of their total volumes. A decrease in precipitation, incoming water from the upper reaches, soil and water conservation measures as well as water consumption contribute most to the significant reduction of streamflow. The decrease of sediment load mainly resulted from various soil and water conservation measures and trapping in reservoirs from 1986 to 2011.

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Zhao, G., Mu, X., Strehmel, A., & Tian, P. (2014). Temporal variation of streamflow, sediment load and their relationship in the Yellow River Basin, China. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0091048

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