Statistical attribution of the influence of urban and tree cover change on streamflow: a comparison of large sample statistical approaches

Anderson, Bailey J.; Slater, Louise J.; Dadson, Simon J. ORCID:; Blum, Annalise G.; Prosdocimi, Ilaria. 2022 Statistical attribution of the influence of urban and tree cover change on streamflow: a comparison of large sample statistical approaches. Water Resources Research, 58 (5), e2021WR030742. 20, pp.

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The strengths and weaknesses of different statistical methodologies for attributing changes in streamflow to land cover are still poorly understood. We examine the relationships between high (Q99), mean (Qmean), and low (Q01) streamflow and urbanization or tree cover change in 729 catchments in the United States between 1992 and 2018. We apply two statistical modeling approaches and compare their performance. Panel regression models estimate the average effect of land cover changes on streamflow across all sites, and show that on average, a 1%-point increase in catchment urban area results in a small (0.6%–0.7%), but highly significant increase in mean and high flows. Meanwhile, a 1%-point increase in tree cover does not correspond to strongly significant changes in flow. We also fit a generalized linear model to each individual site, which results in highly varied model coefficients. The medians of the single-site coefficients show no significant relationships between either urbanization or tree cover change and any streamflow quantile (although at individual sites, the coefficients may be statistically significant and positive or negative). On the other hand, the GLM coefficients may provide greater nuance in catchments with specific attributes. This variation is not well represented through the panel model estimates of average effect, unless moderators are carefully considered. We highlight the value of statistical approaches for large-sample attribution of hydrological change, while cautioning that considerable variability exists.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0043-1397
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: statistical hydrology, large-sample, panel regression, land cover change, generalized linear models
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 20 Jun 2022 16:26 +0 (UTC)

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