Assessment of the resilience of Indian river basins to droughts under climate change scenarios

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In the last few decades, climate change has emerged as a major threat to natural systems. Climate change has affected the climatic patterns around the globe and is affecting the hydrology and ecohydrology in different river basins. These changes are anticipated to aggravate in future. Therefore, it is essential to assess the capacity of our natural systems to withstand these hydroclimatic changes. The concept of resilience, defined as the ability of the ecosystem to absorb the disturbances and sustain the same functioning under disturbed conditions, has emerged as a tool to understand the response of the system to disturbances. In this study, a framework is developed for the resilience analysis of the terrestrial ecosystems in India to droughts. The framework uses the ecosystem water use efficiency (WUEe) as an indicator for the ecosystem functioning. The framework is applied at multiple scales (river basin, district, land cover and climate type) for the resilience analysis of the terrestrial ecosystems. The ecosystem resilience analysis revealed that six out 22 basins and 241 out of 634 districts were resilient to droughts. Forests were found resilient to droughts, which contributed to the higher resilience of forest dominated regions. Out of 30 states and UTs, only 10 had more than 50% resilient area, which were mainly located in the lower Himalayan region. Further, WUEe and its controlling factors are studied in detail. Large variation in WUEe is found for different parts of the country. WUEe was higher in the lower Himalayan regions and northeast India. In contrast to the decreasing trend in global WUEe, an increasing trend was found for the country average WUEe. Precipitation was the main climatic factor affecting WUEe in the western, central and eastern India; Temperature in the mountainous Himalayan regions; and Solar radiation in some parts of northeast and northwest. The negative impact of development activities on primary production was found for four forest-dominated states (3 in northeast and 1 in north).
Supervisors: Arup Kumar Sarma and Manish Kumar Goyal