Changes in land use have potentially large impacts on water resources, yet quantifying these impacts remains among the more challenging problems in hydrology. Water, food, energy, and climate are linked through complex webs of direct and indirect effects and feedbacks. Land use is undergoing major changes due not only to pressures for more efficient food, feed, and fiber production to support growing populations but also due to policy shifts that are creating markets for biofuel and agricultural carbon sequestration. Hydrologic systems embody flows of water, solutes, sediments, and energy that vary even in the absence of human activity. Understanding land use impacts thus necessitates integrated scientific approaches. Field measurements, remote sensing, and modeling studies are shedding new light on the modes and mechanisms by which land use changes impact water resources. Such studies can help deconflate the interconnected influences of human actions and natural variations on the quantity and quality of soil water, surface water, and groundwater, past, present, and future. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional publication details
Introduction to special section on impacts of land use change on water resources