Despite extensive studies on hydrological responses to forest cover change in small watersheds, the hydrological responses to forest change and associated mechanisms across multiple spatial scales have not been fully understood. This review thus examined about 312 watersheds worldwide to provide a generalized framework to evaluate hydrological responses to forest cover change and to identify the contribution of spatial scale, climate, forest type and hydrological regime in determining the intensity of forest change related hydrological responses in small (<1000 km2) and large watersheds (⩾1000 km2). Key findings include: (1) the increase in annual runoff associated with forest cover loss is statistically significant at multiple spatial scales whereas the effect of forest cover gain is statistically inconsistent; (2) the sensitivity of annual runoff to forest cover change tends to attenuate as watershed size increases only in large watersheds; (3) annual runoff is more sensitive to forest cover change in water-limited watersheds than in energy-limited watersheds across all spatial scales; and (4) small mixed forest-dominated watersheds or large snow-dominated watersheds are more hydrologically resilient to forest cover change. These findings improve the understanding of hydrological response to forest cover change at different spatial scales and provide a scientific underpinning to future watershed management in the context of climate change and increasing anthropogenic disturbances.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to Dr. Tim R. McVicar, the editor, the associate editor, and three anonymous referees who helped improve earlier versions of this paper. This research was jointly supported by Special Research Program for Public-welfare Forestry (No. 201404201), China National Science Foundation (Nos. 31400489 and 31290223), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation Grant (No. 2014M560137), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. ZYGX2014J093) and the Murdoch University Postgraduate Research Studentship.
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.
- Annual runoff
- Forest change
- Forest type
- Hydrological regime