What would have been the impacts of wetlands on low flow support and high flow attenuation under steady state land cover conditions?


INRS-ETE/Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique - Eau Terre Environnement, 490 rue de la Couronne, G1K 9A9, Quebec City, Québec, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Conversion of wetlands into other land covers such as cropland or urban area can affect watershed hydrology. The main objective of this work was to quantify the impact of land cover changes, especially those for wetlands, on low flow support and high flow attenuation, through a sub-watershed analysis of the St. Charles River, Quebec, Canada. 1978 and 2014 land cover scenarios, depicting a decrease in wetland areas of 15% at the watershed scale, were integrated into the hydrological modelling platform PHYSITEL/HYDROTEL. The most sensitive model parameters were automatically calibrated at the sub-watershed scale using the dynamically dimensioned search (DDS) algorithm. Pairs of simulations (with and without wetlands) were generated and model outputs were compared to illustrate the differences between the hydrological services provided by the wetlands of the 1978 land cover scenario and those provided by the wetlands of the 2014 land cover scenario. Results showed that low flow support at the outlet of the watershed, in scenarios with wetlands, compared to without wetland, would have increased from 2 to 14% in the 1978 land cover scenario (depending on flow indicator) and from 3 to 20% given the 2014 land cover scenario, whereas high flow attenuation would have been reduced from 15-26% to 16-20%, respectively. Results showed that the effect of wetland change was different between sub-watersheds, but demonstrated that the loss of wetland areas generally leads to a loss of hydrological services and highlighted the need for wetland conservation programs and restoration actions.


High flow attenuation,Hydrological model,Low flow support,St. Charles river watershed,

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