iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


The impact of land use on future water balance - A simple approach for analysing climate change effects

András Herceg   , Péter Kalicz, Zoltán Gribovszki

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 175-185 (2021)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3540-014
Published: Apr 13, 2021 - Copyright © 2021 SISEF

Research Articles

Regional climate change projections for Europe agree in predicting a statistically significant warming in all seasons. The most significant climate change effect is its impact on water cycle through altering precipitation patterns and evapotranspiration processes at multiple scales. The anticipated changes in the distribution and precipitation amounts together with continuously increasing temperatures may induce a higher rate of water consumption in plants, which can generate changes in soil moisture, groundwater, and the water cycle. Thus, climate change can cause changes in the water balance equations structure. A Thornthwaite-type monthly step water balance model was established to compare the water balance in three different surface land cover types: (i) a natural forested area; (ii) a parcel with mixed surface cover; (iii) an agricultural area. The key parameter of the model is the water storage capacity of the soil. Maximal rooting depth of the given area is also determinable during the calibration process using actual evapotranspiration (AET) and soil physical data. The locally calibrated model was employed for assessing future AET and soil moisture of selected land cover types using data from four bias-corrected regional climate models. The projections demonstrate increasing actual evapotranspiration values in each surface cover type at the end of the 21st century. Regarding the 10th percentile minimum soil moisture values, the forested area displayed an increasing trend, while the agricultural field and mixed parcel showed a strong decrease. The 30-year monthly means of evapotranspiration shows the maximum values in June and July, while the minimum soil moisture in September. Water stress analysis indicates water stress is expected to occur only in the agricultural field during the 21st century. The comparison of the three surface covers reveals that forest has the greatest soil water storage capacity due to the highest rooting depth. Thus, according to the projections for 21st century, less water stress is predicted to occur at the forested area compared to the other two surface covers which shows shallow rooting depth.


Water Balance, Climate Change, Plant Available Water, Evapotranspiration, Soil Moisture, Water Stress

Authors’ address

András Herceg
Péter Kalicz 0000-0003-0010-9519
Zoltán Gribovszki 0000-0003-3061-8912
Institute of Geomatics and Civil Engineering, University of Sopron, Sopron (Hungary)

Corresponding author

András Herceg


Herceg A, Kalicz P, Gribovszki Z (2021). The impact of land use on future water balance - A simple approach for analysing climate change effects. iForest 14: 175-185. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3540-014

Academic Editor

Raffaele Lafortezza

Paper history

Received: Jun 01, 2020
Accepted: Feb 05, 2021

First online: Apr 13, 2021
Publication Date: Apr 30, 2021
Publication Time: 2.23 months

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