Abstract

The impacts of climate change and human activity, combined with streamflow reduction in the Yellow River Basin, have presented significant challenges to water resource management strategies. Here, the trends and change points of streamflow were determined for the period 1956–2017 via five statistical methods. A runoff-sensitive coefficients method (the Budyko hypothesis) and a conceptual rainfall–runoff model (the TUW model) were applied to assess the streamflow variation. The following conclusions were ascertained: (1) 1989, 1986, and 1990 were the change points for streamflow in the upstream Tang-Nai-Hai and Lan-Zhou stations and the downstream Hua-Yuan-Kou hydrological station; (2) the streamflow showed statistically significant decreasing trends with spatiotemporal variations in the Yellow River Basin; (3) the relationship between runoff and precipitation showed a downward trend over time; (4) comparisons of the Budyko and TUW models show that human activity is responsible for more than 65% of streamflow reduction, while climate change contributes to less than 35% of the reduction. Therefore, human activity is the main reason for streamflow reduction in the Yellow River Basin. This finding is of critical importance for water resources management under changing environment.

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