Impacts of forestation on the annual and seasonal water balance of a tropical catchment under climate change

Hero Marhaento*, Martijn J. Booij, Noorhadi Rahardjo, Naveed Ahmed

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: This study aims to assess the effects of a forestation program and climate change on the annual and seasonal water balance of the Bogowonto catchment (597 km 2) in Java, Indonesia. The catchment study is rare example in Indonesia where forestation has been applied at the catchment level. However, since the forestation program has been initiated, evaluations of the program only focus on the planting area targets, while the environmental success e.g., impacts on the hydrological processes have never been assessed. This study used a calibrated Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to diagnose the isolated and combined effects of forestation and climate change on five water balance components, namely streamflow (Q), evapotranspiration (ET), surface runoff (Q s), lateral flow (Q l) and base flow (Q b). Results: The results show that from 2006 to 2019, forest cover has increased from 2.7% to 12.8% of the total area, while in the same period there was an increase in the mean annual and seasonal temperature, rainfall, and streamflow. Results of SWAT simulations show that changes in the mean annual and seasonal water balance under the forestation only scenario were relatively minor, while changes were more pronounced under the climate change only scenario. Based on the combined impacts scenario, it was observed that the effects of a larger forest area on the water balance were smaller than the effects of climate change. Conclusions: Although we found that forestation program has minor impacts compared to that of climate change on the hydrological processes in the Bogowonto catchment, seasonally, forestation activity has decreased the streamflow and surface runoff during the wet season which may reduce the risk of moderate floods. However, much attention should be paid to the way how forestation may result in severe drought events during the dry season. Finally, we urge the importance of accounting for the positive and negative effects in future forestation programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Number of pages16
JournalForest Ecosystems
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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