Quantifying the impact of climate change and human activities on hydrological processes is of great importance for regional water-resource management. In this study, trend analysis and analysis of the short-term variations in annual streamflow and sediment load in the Yanhe River Basin (YRB) during the period 1972–2011 were conducted using linear regression and the Pettitt test. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was employed to simulate the hydrological processes. The results show that both annual mean streamflow and annual mean sediment load in the YRB significantly decreased (P < 0.05) during the study period. The relative contributions from climate change and human activities to YRB streamflow decline between 1996 and 2011 were estimated to be 55.8 and 44.2%, respectively. In contrast to the results for streamflow, the dominant cause of YRB sediment-load decline was human activity (which explained 64% of the decrease), rather than climate change. The study also demonstrates that topographical characteristics (watershed subdivision threshold value, digital elevation model spatial resolution) can cause uncertainties in the simulated streamflow and sediment load. The results presented in this paper will increase understanding of the mechanisms of soil loss and will enable more efficient management of water resources in the YRB.

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