Impacts of land use change and climatic effects on streamflow in the Chinese Loess Plateau: A meta-analysis

Hao Chen*, Luuk Fleskens, Jantiene Baartman, Fei Wang, Simon Moolenaar, Coen Ritsema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Land use and climate change are recognized as two major drivers affecting surface streamflow. On the Chinese Loess Plateau, implementation of several land restoration projects has changed land cover in recent decades. The main objectives of this study were to understand how streamflow evolved on the Loess Plateau and how land use and climate change have contributed to this change. In this study, we selected 22 hydrological modelling studies covering 25 different watersheds in the Loess Plateau and we performed a meta-analysis by using the hydrological and meteorological data collected from these studies. The results indicate a streamflow decrease in 41 of a total of 52 case studies whereas precipitation change was found to be non-significant in the majority of the cases. Streamflow reduction was estimated to be −0.46 mm/year by meta-analysis across all case studies. Land use change was estimated to have 63.52% impact on the streamflow reduction whereas climate change accounted for 36.48% of the impact. Using meta-regression, an increasing soil and water conservation area was found to be positively correlated to streamflow reduction. We conclude that in the Chinese Loess Plateau, streamflow shows a decreasing trend and land restoration is the major cause of this reduction. To the knowledge of the authors, this is the first study that estimates streamflow dynamics across many watersheds on the entire Loess Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134989
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2020


  • Climate change
  • Land restoration
  • Meta-regression
  • Streamflow reduction

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