EGU24-14209, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Impacts of hydrological extremes in a mountainous forest catchment: Experiences from the Harz mountains, Germany

Paul Wagner and Nicola Fohrer
Paul Wagner and Nicola Fohrer
  • Kiel University, Institute for Natural Resource Conservation, Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Kiel, Germany (

The Harz mountains in Germany have experienced floods and droughts in recent years. On the one hand, a major flood event affected the city of Goslar in 2017, and on the other hand, drought conditions since 2018 have led to tree mortality in the forested catchment area upstream. The frequency of such extreme events is expected to increase as a result of climate change. Here, we aim at assessing the impacts of the ongoing tree mortality on hydrology. To this end, we employ the ecohydrological model SWAT+ to assess changes in water balance components. The model is specifically calibrated for extreme conditions by evaluating the model performance for different segments of the flow duration curve. Satellite-derived changes in forest cover are used to assess the impact on water balance components. The analysis of the model performance indicates that the calibration strategy improved model performance for drought conditions. Furthermore, first model results indicate that tree mortality led to a decrease in evapotranspiration and an increase in surface runoff. The spatial assessment suggests stronger effects at the sub-catchment scale than at the catchment scale. However, the faster response of the catchment due to tree mortality potentially increases the severity of flood events and the flood risk in downstream areas. Therefore, afforestation with climate-resilient trees is needed to improve both flood and drought resilience in the Harz mountains.

How to cite: Wagner, P. and Fohrer, N.: Impacts of hydrological extremes in a mountainous forest catchment: Experiences from the Harz mountains, Germany, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-14209,, 2024.