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The authors emphasize the importance of land-cover change in forecasting future freshwater …


Biology Articles » Bioclimatology » Changes in climate and land use have a larger direct impact than rising CO2 on global river runoff trends » Conclusions

Conclusions
- Changes in climate and land use have a larger direct impact than rising CO2 on global river runoff trends

Process-based simulations of global runoff using a terrestrial biosphere model suggest that the observed significant increase in global runoff in the 20th century was mainly a consequence of climate change and widespread deforestation. We estimate that the secular rise in atmospheric CO2 caused a small but significant decrease in global runoff because of the antagonistic responses of leaf-level processes and vegetation dynamics. On the basis of our findings, it seems overoptimistic to assume that rising CO2 could cause water savings in soil and thereby further promote vegetation productivity at a scale large enough to affect continental runoff. The results presented here not only provide insights for large-scale field experiments but also highlight the importance of biosphere feedbacks on the water balance of land surfaces (15, 16). The roles of vegetation growth feedbacks and land-use change cannot be ignored when projecting future changes in hydrologic processes and climate.

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