Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2017, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (4): 481-496.doi: 10.1007/s11442-017-1388-2

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Influence of climate variability and human activities on stream flow variation in the past 50 years in Taoer River, Northeast China

Kai ZHANG1,2(), Lijuan LI1,*, Peng BAI1, Jiuyi LI3(), Yumei LIU4   

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Water Cycle & Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2.University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    4. Suzhou University of Science and Technology, Suzhou 215009, Jiangsu, China
  • Received:2016-01-29 Accepted:2016-09-30 Online:2017-04-20 Published:2017-04-20
  • Contact: Lijuan LI;
  • About author:

    Author: Zhang Kai (1987-), PhD Candidate, specialized in hydrology and water resources. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.91547114, No.41201568, No.41201572


Taoer River Basin, which is located in the west of Northeast China, is an agro- pastoral ecotone. In recent years, the hydrological cycle and water resources have changed significantly with the deterioration of the environment. Many water problems such as river blanking, wetland shrinking and salinization have occurred in this region. All of these phenomena were directly caused by changes in stream flow under climate variability and human activities. In light of the situation, the impact of climate variability and human activities on stream flow should be identified immediately to identify the primary driving factors of basin hydrological processes. To achieve this, statistical tests were applied to identify trends in variation and catastrophe points in mean annual stream flow from 1961 to 2011. A runoff sensitive coefficients method and a SIMHYD model were applied to assess the impacts of stream flow variation. The following conclusions were found: 1) The years 1985 and 2000 were confirmed to be catastrophe points in the stream flow series. Thus, the study period could be divided into three periods, from 1961 to 1985 (Period I), 1986 to 2000 (Period II) and 2001 to 2011 (Period III). 2) Mean annual observed stream flow was 31.54 mm in Period I, then increased to 65.60 mm in Period II and decreased to 2.92 mm in Period III. 3) Using runoff sensitive coefficients, the contribution of climate variability was 41.93% and 43.14% of the increase in stream flow during Periods II and III, suggesting that the contribution of human activities to the increase was 58.07% and 56.86%, respectively. 4) Climate variability accounted for 42.57% and 44.30% of the decrease in stream flow, while human activities accounted for 57.43% and 55.70% of the decrease, according to the SIMHYD model. 5) In comparison of these two methods, the primary driving factors of stream flow variation could be considered to be human activities, which contributed about 15% more than climate variability. It is hoped that these conclusions will benefit future regional planning and sustainable development.

Key words: influence, stream flow variation, climate variability, human activities, Taoer River