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Land cover change and water vapour flows: Learning from Australia.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
2003 (English)In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, ISSN 0962-8436, Vol. 358, no 1440, 1973-1984 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Australia is faced with large-scale dryland salinization problems, largely as a consequence of the clearing of native vegetation for cropland and grassland. We estimate the change in continental water vapour flow (evapotranspiration) of Australia during the past 200 years. During this period there has been a substantial decrease in woody vegetation and a corresponding increase in croplands and grasslands. The shift in land use has caused a ca. 10% decrease in water vapour flows from the continent. This reduction corresponds to an annual freshwater flow of almost 340 km(3). The society-induced alteration of freshwater flows is estimated at more than 15 times the volume of run-off freshwater that is diverted and actively managed in the Australian society. These substantial water vapour flow alterations were previously not addressed in water management but are now causing serious impacts on the Australian society and local economies. Global and continental freshwater assessments and policy often neglects the interplay between freshwater flows and landscape dynamics. Freshwater issues on both regional and global levels must be rethought and the interplay between terrestrial ecosystems and freshwater better incorporated in freshwater and ecosystem management.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Royal Soc of London, 2003. Vol. 358, no 1440, 1973-1984 p.
Keyword [en]
freshwater; terrestrial ecosystems; evapotranspiration; land cover change; salinization; Australia
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-23128DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2003.1381OAI: diva2:190301
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-16Available from: 2003-11-22 Created: 2003-11-22 Last updated: 2009-12-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Land Use, Freshwater Flows and Ecosystem Services in an Era of Global Change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Land Use, Freshwater Flows and Ecosystem Services in an Era of Global Change
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this thesis is to analyse interactions between freshwater flows, terrestrial ecosystems and human well-being. Freshwater management and policy has mainly focused on the liquid water part (surface and ground water run off) of the hydrological cycle including aquatic ecosystems. Although of great significance, this thesis shows that such a focus will not be sufficient for coping with freshwater related social-ecological vulnerability. The thesis illustrates that the terrestrial component of the hydrological cycle, reflected in vapour flows (or evapotranspiration), serves multiple functions in the human life-support system. A broader understanding of the interactions between terrestrial systems and freshwater flows is particularly important in light of present widespread land cover change in terrestrial ecosystems.

The water vapour flows from continental ecosystems were quantified at a global scale in Paper I of the thesis. It was estimated that in order to sustain the majority of global terrestrial ecosystem services on which humanity depends, an annual water vapour flow of 63 000 km3/yr is needed, including 6800 km3/yr for crop production. In comparison, the annual human withdrawal of liquid water amounts to roughly 4000 km3/yr. A potential conflict between freshwater for future food production and for terrestrial ecosystem services was identified.

Human redistribution of water vapour flows as a consequence of long-term land cover change was addressed at both continental (Australia) (Paper II) and global scales (Paper III). It was estimated that the annual vapour flow had decreased by 10% in Australia during the last 200 years. This is due to a decrease in woody vegetation for agricultural production. The reduction in vapour flows has caused severe problems with salinity of soils and rivers. The human-induced alteration of vapour flows was estimated at more than 15 times the volume of human-induced change in liquid water (Paper II).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för systemekologi, 2003. 34 p.
freshwater, green water, ecosystem services, integrated water resources management, food production, land use and land cover change, vulnerability, resilience, hydrological cycle, global change, Australia
National Category
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-16 (URN)91-7265-755-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2003-11-07, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 C, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2003-11-22 Created: 2003-11-22Bibliographically approved

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