Land use change in a 200-year period and its effect on blue and green water flow in two Slovenian Mediterranean catchments—lessons for the future



The overexploitation and impairment of our freshwater resources require land management strategies that support the preservation of green and blue water flow and various ecosystem services. Historical landscape analysis and the influential driving factors of landscape development provide an essential basis for tackling current environmental questions in land and water management. Hence, this article investigates the influence of historical land use pattern on the hydrological processes and provision of blue and green water flow and storage for man and ecosystems under current climate conditions. Moreover, we discuss in how far these findings could be used to predict or optimise future land management options or as a reference for future land and water management. We used digitalized historical land use maps from 1787, 1827, 1940 and 1984 and a digital land use map of present situation from 2009 for our study areas, which are two small scale Slovenian catchments (Reka and Dragonja). The integrated river basin model soil and water assessment tool was used to simulate the land use change effects on blue and green water flow. The results showed for both catchments that the influence of land use change on total and green water quantity would be statistically insignificant but would have considerable effects on the seasonal flows. In the Reka catchment, historical situations indicate effects on spring and summer blue and green water flow due to a decreased percentage of forest and an increased percentage of grassland and vineyards in the past. Results for the Dragonja catchment indicate past shift from arable land use to forest as decrease in summer green water flow and increase in blue water flow. Possible effects are also increased levels of blue water flow and decreased levels of green water flow during the growing period of the year. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.