Streamflow prediction under different re-vegetation scenarios

Mediterranean mountains have been largely affected by agricultural abandonment and subsequent vegetation recovery. The resulting expansion of forest and shrubs has modified the hydrological behavior of these areas, with significant impact on runoff production. Forecasting the effect on stream flow response of such vegetation recovery is particularly relevant in the Mediterranean region, where water resources are scarce and uneven, and they rely on runoff generated in mountain areas.

With this purpose, a process-based distributed hydrological model was developed within the PCRaster Python framework. The model has been calibrated in a past agricultural catchment (2.8 km2) in the Spanish Pyrenees, monitored by the Instituto Pirenacio de Ecología (CSIC). In order to reproduce realistic vegetation recovery scenarios, we need to determine the soil and vegetation parameters for several stages of land abandonment. The aim of this research is to characterize several stages of land abandonment in terms of vegetation and soil properties, and to identify their effect on the stream flow response. The research will include:

  • Fieldwork in the study area (Spanish Pyrenees): at each site (representing a stage of land abandonment) we will collect data related to vegetation and soil characteristics
  • Statistical analysis of the field data
  • Simulation of the hydrological response of the catchment under different re-vegetation scenarios, based on the data collected in the field

Detailed content of the research can be discussed and tailored to your background. The fieldwork will take place preferably in September.

Location: Spanish Pyrenees

Number of students: 1-3

Prerequisite: courses in spatio-temporal modelling, hydrology, geomorphology, and/or natural hazards

Program/track: Earth Surface Hydrology or Natural Hazards and Earth Observation

Contact/info: Noemi Lana-Renault ( or Derek Karssenberg (