PLoS ONE (2015-01-01)

Evaluation of Spatial Pattern of Altered Flow Regimes on a River Network Using a Distributed Hydrological Model.

  • Masahiro Ryo,
  • Yuichi Iwasaki,
  • Chihiro Yoshimura,
  • Oliver C Saavedra V

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 7
p. e0133833


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Alteration of the spatial variability of natural flow regimes has been less studied than that of the temporal variability, despite its ecological importance for river ecosystems. Here, we aimed to quantify the spatial patterns of flow regime alterations along a river network in the Sagami River, Japan, by estimating river discharge under natural and altered flow conditions. We used a distributed hydrological model, which simulates hydrological processes spatiotemporally, to estimate 20-year daily river discharge along the river network. Then, 33 hydrologic indices (i.e., Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration) were calculated from the simulated discharge to estimate the spatial patterns of their alterations. Some hydrologic indices were relatively well estimated such as the magnitude and timing of maximum flows, monthly median flows, and the frequency of low and high flow pulses. The accuracy was evaluated with correlation analysis (r > 0.4) and the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test (α = 0.05) by comparing these indices calculated from both observed and simulated discharge. The spatial patterns of the flow regime alterations varied depending on the hydrologic indices. For example, both the median flow in August and the frequency of high flow pulses were reduced by the maximum of approximately 70%, but these strongest alterations were detected at different locations (i.e., on the mainstream and the tributary, respectively). These results are likely caused by different operational purposes of multiple water control facilities. The results imply that the evaluation only at discharge gauges is insufficient to capture the alteration of the flow regime. Our findings clearly emphasize the importance of evaluating the spatial pattern of flow regime alteration on a river network where its discharge is affected by multiple water control facilities.