Ecohydrological changes in the Murray-Darling Basin. III. A simulation of regional hydrological changes.

Published online
21 Jun 1995
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Pierce, L. L. & Walker, J. & Dowling, T. I. & McVicar, T. R. & Hatton, T. J. & Running, S. W. & Coughlan, J. C.

Publication language
Australia & New South Wales


Regional scale changes to the hydrological cycle of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in Australia have occurred as a result of European settlement 200 years ago. Replacement of deep-rooted perennial plants (trees) by shallower rooting plants (pastures and cropping) alters water-tables and causes waterlogging and secondary salinization. This study located the areas at risk of waterlogging and salinization as a result of tree clearing. To achieve this, present-day evaporation (ET) from 0.8% of the MDB (7750 km2) was compared with ET from a reconstruction of the pre-European condition. The spatial geographical database for the 155 × 50 km study area consisted of vegetation, soils, climate and topographic information at 1.6 × 1.6 km cell resolution (3072 individual cells for each data layer). Leaf area index (LAI) was used to define the amount of photosynthesizing and transpiring tissue. Present-day LAI was estimated for each cell using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index calculated from NOAA-9 Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer data. Pre-European LAI was obtained using the assumption that an equilibrium exists between LAI and climate-soil conditions. Daily climate was interpolated across the study area using topographic information and a microclimate simulator (MTCLIM). A water balance model previously described (Part II) was used to calculate past and present-day ET for each cell assuming that only the tree vegetation had changed. The simulation was confined to a 30-day period in autumn when a uniform senescent ground layer occurs. Maps of water use by trees for pre-European and present-day vegetation were produced. Differences in ET between pre-European and present-day vegetation were displayed spatially across the study area. These areas are interpreted as representing areas at risk from waterlogging and salinization.

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