Projected increases in the annual flood pulse of the Western Amazon

Authors Zulkafli, Z.; Buytaert, W.; Manz, B.; Rosas, C.Veliz; Willems, P.; Lavado-Casimiro, W.; Guyot, J.L.; Santini, W.
Year of Publication 2016
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal Environmental Research Letters
Volume 11
Issue 1
Open Access Yes


The impact of a changing climate on the Amazon basin is a subject of intensive research because of its rich biodiversity and the significant role of rainforests in carbon cycling. Climate change has also a direct hydrological impact, and increasing efforts have focused on understanding the hydrological dynamics at continental and subregional scales, such as the Western Amazon. New projections from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 ensemble indicate consistent climatic warming and increasing seasonality of precipitation in the Peruvian Amazon basin. Here we use a distributed land surface model to quantify the potential impact of this change in the climate on the hydrological regime of the upper Amazon river. Using extreme value analysis, historical and future projections of the annual minimum, mean, and maximum river flows are produced for a range of return periods between 1 and 100 yr. We show that the RCP 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios of climate change project an increased severity of the wet season flood pulse (7.5% and 12% increases respectively for the 100 yr return floods). These findings agree with previously projected increases in high extremes under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios climate projections, and are important to highlight due to the potential consequences on reproductive processes of in-stream species, swamp forest ecology, and socio-economy in the floodplain, amidst a growing literature that more strongly emphasises future droughts and their impact on the viability of the rainforest system over greater Amazonia.