Re-vegetation and water availability in Mediterranean areas: a study case in northeastern Spain¶

In Mediterranean regions, water availability is low and depends on runoff generated in mountain areas. However, a marked decline in river discharges has been observed in the last century, related to i) decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature and ii) increasing expansion of vegetation in the headwaters due to land abandonment. On the other hand, increasing water consumption for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses is occurring in the lowlands. Future water management will need to cope with these changing scenarios in order to ensure water supply.

In this study we will focus on the impact of re-vegetation in the headwaters on future trends of water availability. Questions addressed include: how will re-vegetation affect water availability? What is the seasonality of river flows? What is the water demand in the lowlands? What is the spatio-temporal pattern of the resulting water stress?

The research will be carried out in the Ebro basin, an example representative for large Mediterranean rivers. An existing process-based distributed hydrological model developed within the PCRaster Python framework and calibrated in a small catchment in the Pyrenees will be used. The model will be run under future land cover and climate change scenarios for a larger area in the Pyrenees. The discharge simulated in the upstream area will be compared to future downstream demand to calculate water stress.

Location: Utrecht University, possibility to visit the research area (Ebro basin) to collect additional data 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: Noemí Lana-Renault ( or Derek Karssenberg (