Modelling potential climate change impacts on sediment yield in the Tsitsa River catchment, South Africa

  • Simone Norah Theron 1. Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, Agricultural Research Council, 600 Belvedere Street, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083, South Africa; 2. Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Meteorology, University of Pretoria, Lynnwood Road, Hatfield, Pretoria 0002, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8895-9464
  • Harold Louw Weepener Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, Agricultural Research Council, 600 Belvedere Street, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083, South Africa
  • Jacobus Johannes Le Roux Department of Geography, University of the Free State, 205 Nelson Mandela Dr, Park West, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa
  • Christina Johanna Engelbrecht 1. Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, Agricultural Research Council, 600 Belvedere Street, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083, South Africa; 2. Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Meteorology, University of Pretoria, Lynnwood Road, Hatfield, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
Keywords: soil erosion, climate change, hydrological modelling, SWAT, sediment yield, erosivity, sedimentation

Abstract

The effects of climate change on water resources could be numerous and widespread, affecting water quality and water security across the globe. Variations in rainfall erosivity and temporal patterns, along with changes in biomass and land use, are some of the impacts climate change is projected to have on soil erosion. Sedimentation of watercourses and reservoirs, especially in water-stressed regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, may hamper climate change resilience. Modelling sediment yield under various climate change scenarios is vital to develop mitigation strategies which offset the negative effects of erosion and ensure infrastructure remains sustainable under future climate change. This study investigated the relative change in sediment yield with projected climate change using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) for a rural catchment in South Africa for the period 2015–2100. Data from six downscaled Coupled Global Climate Models (CGCM) were divided into three shorter time periods, namely, 2015–2034, 2045–2064 and 2081–2100. Results were then compared with a control scenario using observed data for the period 2002–2017. The results show that, if left unmanaged, climate change will likely lead to greater sediment yield, of up to 10% more per annum. Peak sediment yield will also increase almost three-fold throughout the century. The study shows that projected climate change will have multiple negative effects on soil erosion and emphasised the need for changes in climate to be considered when embarking on water resource developments.

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Published
2021-01-28
Section
Research paper