Nasim Fazel Modares, Public defence, 28.11.2018

Ilmastonmuutoksen ja maankäytön muutosten vaikutukset Urmiajärven kuivumiseen
The role of climate and land use change in Lake Urmia desiccation

Link to Thesis

Wetlands in arid and semi-arid regions are complex fragile ecosystems that are critical in maintaining and controlling environmental quality and biodiversity. These wetlands and specially closed lake systems depend on support processes in upstream parts of the basin or recharge zone, as small changes in river flow regime can cause significant changes in lake level, salinity and productivity. Recent strong alterations in river flow regimes due to climate and land use change have resulted in ecosystem degradation and desiccation of many saline lakes in arid and semi-arid regions. Because of the low economic value of these lakes, their hydrology has not been monitored accurately, making it difficult to determine water balance and assess the role of water use and climate in lake desiccation. Furthermore, available data are usually of coarse resolution on both spatial and temporal scale.

New frameworks using all available data and refining existing information on lake basins were developed in this thesis to assess regional differences in water resource availability, impacts of human activities on river flow regime alteration and agricultural land use change. The frameworks were applied to study causes and impacts of desiccation of a major lake, Lake Urmia, one of the largest saltwater lakes on Earth. This highly endangered ecosystem is on the brink of a major environmental disaster resembling that around the Aral Sea. The spatial pattern of precipitation across the Lake Urmia basin was investigated, to shed light on regional differences in water availability. Using large numbers of rainfall records and a wide array of statistical descriptors, precipitation across space and time was evaluated. Another important research component involved examining streamflow records for headwaters and lowland reaches of the Lake Urmia basin, in order to determine whether observed changes are mainly due to climate change or anthropogenic activities (e.g. water withdrawal for domestic and irrigation purposes).

Principal component and clustering analyses of all available precipitation data for the lake basin revealed a heterogeneous precipitation pattern, but also permitted delineation of three homogeneous precipitation areas within the region. Further analysis identified variation in seasonal precipitation as the most important factor controlling the spatial precipitation pattern in the basin. The results showed that climate change impact on headwaters is insignificant and that irrigation is the main driving force for river flow regime alterations in the basin. This is supported by evidence that the headwaters have relatively remained unaffected by agriculture and by lack of significant changes in the historical records.

The approach presented, involving clear in terpretation of existing information, can be useful in communicating land use and climate change information to decision makers and lake restoration planners.

Viimeksi päivitetty: 17.12.2018