SWAT-simulated hydrological impact of land-use change in the Zanjanrood basin, Northwest Iran

G. Ghaffari, J. Ghodousi, H. Ahmadi, S.D. Keesstra

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159 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the impacts of land-use changes on hydrology at the watershed scale can facilitate development of sustainable water resource strategies. This paper investigates the hydrological effects of land-use change in Zanjanrood basin, Iran. The water balance was simulated using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (AVSWAT2000). Model calibration and uncertainty analysis were performed with sequential uncertainty fitting (SUFI-2). Simulation results from January 1998 to December 2002 were used for parameter calibration, and then the model was validated for the period of January 2003 to December 2004. The predicted monthly streamflow matched the observed values: during calibration the correlation coefficient was 0·86 and the Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient 0·79, compared with 0·80 and 0·79, respectively, during validation. The model was used to simulate the main components of the hydrological cycle, in order to study the effects of land-use changes in 1967, 1994 and 2007. The study reveals that during 1967 a 34·5% decrease of grassland with concurrent increases of shrubland (13·9%), rain-fed agriculture (12·1%), bare ground (5·5%) irrigated agriculture (2·2%), and urban area (0·7%) led to a 33% increase in the amount of surface runoff and a 22% decrease in the groundwater recharge. Furthermore, the area of sub-basins that was influenced by high runoff (14–28 mm) increased. The results indicate that the hydrological response to overgrazing and the replacing of rangelands (grassland and shrubland) with rain-fed agriculture and bare ground (badlands) is nonlinear and exhibits a threshold effect. The runoff rises dramatically when more than 60% of the rangeland is removed. For groundwater this threshold lies at an 80% decrease in rangeland
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-903
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • mississippi river-basin
  • climate-change impacts
  • water-resources
  • groundwater recharge
  • catchment models
  • west-africa
  • runoff
  • parameters
  • scale
  • variability


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