Contrasting the hydrologic response due to land cover and climate change in a mountain headwaters system

Christine E. Pribulick, Lauren M. Foster, Lindsay A. Bearup, Alexis K. Navarre-Sitchler, Kenneth H. Williams, Rosemary W.H. Carroll, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Land cover change due to drought and insect-induced tree mortality or altered vegetation succession is one of the many consequences of anthropogenic climate change. While the hydrologic response to land cover change and increases in temperature have been explored independently, few studies have compared these two impacts in a systematic manner. These changes are particularly important in snow-dominated, headwaters systems that provide streamflow for continental river systems. Here we study the hydrologic impacts of both vegetation change and climate warming along three transects in a mountain headwaters watershed using an integrated hydrologic model. Results show that while impacts due to warming generally outweigh those resulting from vegetation change, the inherent variability within the transects provides varying degrees of response. The combination of both vegetation change and warming results in greater changes to streamflow amount and timing than either impact individually, indicating a nonlinear response from these systems to multiple perturbations. The complexity of response underscores the need to integrate observational data and the challenge of deciphering hydrologic impacts from proxy studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1438
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • climate change
  • headwaters
  • hydrologic response
  • integrated hydrologic modeling
  • land cover change
  • mountain


Dive into the research topics of 'Contrasting the hydrologic response due to land cover and climate change in a mountain headwaters system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this