In order to determine the reason for runoff reduction, daily natural runoff series were restored using a conceptual rainfall–runoff model. The period of 1970–1979 was regarded as a base period with little human activity; model parameters for each subcatchment within the Laohahe basin were calibrated for this period. The effects of human activity and climate change on runoff were quantified by comparing the observed runoff and the natural runoff simulated by the hydrological model. The results show that the observed annual mean runoffs in the 1980s and especially in the 2000s are smaller than those of the 1970s. Although runoff reduction in the 1980s and 2000s is mainly caused by climate change, human activity also plays an important role on the runoff reduction. Taking the 2000 as an example, human activity and climate change are responsible for 45.6 and 54.4% of the runoff reduction in Laohahe basin, respectively. The effect of human activity on runoff reduction in the Laohahe basin is increasingly intensive from the 1980s to the 2000s. Human activity in the Dianzi catchment has the most drastic effect within the Laohahe basin.

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