Significant, adverse climatic change and drastically increased demographic pressure have strongly affected, in recent years, the hydrology and environment in the semi-arid Sahel region of West Africa. Marked rain deficits have coincided with increased water runoff, meaning less water availability for the vegetation. Conversely, changes in vegetation cover have had strong repercussions on the hydrologic cycle. To study these phenomena, the coupling of two explicit, process-based models, of catchment hydrology and of mixed vegetation cover, respectively, has been undertaken and applied to a 2 km2 site in Niger. Some of the first significant results are presented herein. Some are consistent with intuitive judgments that can be made in the absence of a coupled model, others are much less so and show that representation through model coupling of hydrosphere/biosphere interactions is essential to produce more reliable analyses and projections. In particular, it is found that the relation of biomass productivity to rainfall under this dry, water-limited climate is not as straightforward as one would expect, more specifically, that its main control may not be the total season rainfall.
Keywords: Millet - Savanna - West Africa - Climate change