EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Sensitivity of hydrological predictions to ecosystem adaptation in response to climate change: the effect of time-dynamic model parameters

Laurène J.E. Bouaziz1,2, Emma E. Aalbers3,4, Albrecht H. Weerts1,5, Mark Hegnauer1, Hendrik Buiteveld6, Rita Lammersen6, Jasper Stam6, Eric Sprokkereef6, Hubert H.G. Savenije2, and Markus Hrachowitz2
Laurène J.E. Bouaziz et al.
  • 1Deltares, Hydrology, Delft, Netherlands (
  • 2Department of Water Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5048, NL-2600 GA Delft, the Netherlands
  • 3Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), P.O. Box 201, 3730 AE De Bilt, the Netherlands
  • 4Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, the Netherlands
  • 5Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University and Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 6Rijkswaterstaat, P.O. Box 2232, 3500 GE Utrecht, the Netherlands

Typically, the future hydrological behavior of a river basin, for example as a result of climate change, is predicted using hydrological models calibrated with historical observations. In reality, hydrological systems, and hence model parameters, experience almost continuous change in time and space. More specifically, there is growing evidence that vegetation adapts to changing conditions by adjusting its root-zone storage capacity, i.e. the amount of water in the unsaturated subsurface which is available to the roots of vegetation for transpiration. Additionally, other species may become dominant under natural and anthropogenic influence. In this study, we test the sensitivity of hydrological model predictions to changes in vegetation parameters that reflect ecosystem adaptation to climate and potential land-use changes. In other words, if the climate changes, how should our models change and what is the effect on the hydrological response? Our methodology directly uses projected climate data to estimate how vegetation adapts its root-zone storage capacity at the catchment scale to changes in hydro-climatic variables and potential land-use change. We test the hypothesis that changes in the hydrological response under global warming are more pronounced when explicitly considering changes reflecting adaptation of the root-zone storage capacity of vegetation. We compare a stationary benchmark model with several non-stationary model scenarios reflecting climate and potential land-use changes in the Meuse basin. We found that the larger root-zone storage capacities (+34%) in response to warmer summers under projected +2K global warming result in up to -15% less streamflow in autumn due to up to +14% higher summer evaporation in the non-stationary scenarios compared to the stationary benchmark scenario. By integrating a time-dynamic representation of changing vegetation properties in hydrological models, we make a potential step towards more reliable hydrological predictions under change.

How to cite: Bouaziz, L. J. E., Aalbers, E. E., Weerts, A. H., Hegnauer, M., Buiteveld, H., Lammersen, R., Stam, J., Sprokkereef, E., Savenije, H. H. G., and Hrachowitz, M.: Sensitivity of hydrological predictions to ecosystem adaptation in response to climate change: the effect of time-dynamic model parameters, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4613,, 2022.


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