Streamflow hydrology in the boreal region under the influences of climate and human interference

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Jul 12;363(1501):2251-60. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2007.2197.


The boreal region has a subarctic climate that is subject to considerable inter-annual variability and is prone to impacts of future warming. Climate influences the seasonal streamflow regime which typically exhibits winter low flow, terminated by spring freshet, followed by summer flow recession. The effects of climatic variation on streamflow cannot be isolated with confidence but the impact of human regulation of rivers can greatly alter the natural flow rhythm, changing the timing of flow to suit human demands. The effect of scenario climate change on streamflow is explored through hydrological simulation. Example of a Canadian basin under warming scenario suggests that winter flow will increase, spring freshet dates will advance but peak flow will decline, as will summer flow due to enhanced evaporation. While this simulation was site specific, the results are qualitatively applicable to other boreal areas. Future studies should consider the role of human activities as their impacts on streamflow will be more profound than those due to climate change.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Human Activities*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Rivers*
  • Water Movements*