Development of the ecohydrological model SWIM for regional impact studies and vulnerability assessment



In this paper the ecohydrological model SWIM developed for regional impact assessment is presented, and examples of approaches to climate and land use change impact studies are described. SWIM is a continuous-time semi-distributed ecohydrological model, integrating hydrological processes, vegetation, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment transport at the river basin scale. Its spatial disaggregation scheme has three levels: (1) basin, (2) sub-basins and (3) hydrotopes within sub-basins. The model was extensively tested and validated for hydrological processes, nitrogen dynamics, crop yield and erosion (mainly in mesoscale sub-basins of the German part of the Elbe River basin). After appropriate validation in representative sub-basins, the model can be applied at the regional scale for impact studies. Particular interest in the global change impact studies is given to effects of expected changes in climate and land use on hydrological processes and agro-ecosystems, including water balance components, water quality and crop yield. This paper (a) introduces the reader to the class of process-based ecohydrological catchment scale models, (b) introduces SWIM as one such model, and (c) presents two examples of impact studies performed with SWIM for the federal state of Brandenburg (Germany), which overlaps with the lowland part of the Elbe drainage area. The impact studies provide a better understanding of the complex interactions between climate, hydrological processes and vegetation, and improve our potential adaptation to the expected changes. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.