Hydrological Modeling in Data-Scarce Catchments: The Kilombero Floodplain in Tanzania

Kristian Näschen (Corresponding Author), Bernd Diekkrüger, Constanze Leemhuis, Stefanie Steinbach, Larisa S. Seregina, Frank Thonfeld, Roderick van der Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
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Deterioration of upland soils, demographic growth, and climate change all lead to an increased utilization of wetlands in East Africa. This considerable pressure on wetland resources results in trade-offs between those resources and their related ecosystem services. Furthermore, relationships between catchment attributes and available wetland water resources are one of the key drivers that might lead to wetland degradation. To investigate the impacts of these developments on catchment-wetland water resources, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was applied to the Kilombero Catchment in Tanzania, which is like many other East African catchments, as it is characterized by overall data scarcity. Due to the lack of recent discharge data, the model was calibrated for the period from 1958–1965 (R2 = 0.86, NSE = 0.85, KGE = 0.93) and validated from 1966–1970 (R2 = 0.80, NSE = 0.80, KGE = 0.89) with the sequential uncertainty fitting algorithm (SUFI-2) on a daily resolution. Results show the dependency of the wetland on baseflow contribution from the enclosing catchment, especially in dry season. Main contributions with regard to overall water yield arise from the northern mountains and the southeastern highlands, which are characterized by steep slopes and a high share of forest and savanna vegetation, respectively. Simulations of land use change effects, generated with Landsat images from the 1970s up to 2014, show severe shifts in the water balance components on the subcatchment scale due to anthropogenic activities. Sustainable management of the investigated catchment should therefore account for the catchment–wetland interaction concerning water resources, with a special emphasis on groundwater fluxes to ensure future food production as well as the preservation of the wetland ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number599
Pages (from-to)1-27
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • SWAT model
  • hydrological modeling
  • East Africa
  • land use changes
  • water balance
  • wetlands


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