Responses of streamflow and sediment load to climate change and human activity in the Upper Yellow River, China: a case of the Ten Great Gullies Basin

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Soil erosion and land desertification are the most serious environmental problems globally. This study investigated the changes in streamflow and sediment load from 1964 to 2012 in the Ten Great Gullies area of the Upper Yellow River. Tests for gradual trends (Mann–Kendall test) and abrupt changes (Pettitt test) identify that significant declines in streamflow and sediment load occurred in 1997–1998 in two typical gullies. A comparison of climatic variability before and after the change points shows no statistically significant trends in annual precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. Human activities have been very active in the region and during 1990–2010, 146.01 and 197.62 km2 of land were converted, respectively, to forests and grassland, with corresponding increases of 87.56 and 77.05%. In addition, a large number of check dams have been built up in the upper reaches of the ten gullies. These measures were likely responsible for the significant decline in the annual streamflow and sediment load over the last 49 years.

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