Hydrologic & Carbon services in Western Ghats: response of forests and agro-ecosystems to extreme rainfall

Lead PIs

Dr Nick Chappell, Lancaster University, UK (Professor Michael Bonell (deceased), University of Dundee, UK) 

Dr Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) India

Indo-UK Partners

University of Dundee, UK

Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL)

National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)

Start and End Date

Jan 2012 - Aug 2016

Funders

UKRI-Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK

Ministry of Earth Science, GoI

Summary of Project

River flood events have devastating consequences for health, livelihoods and economic development in India. This project focused on the role of extreme rainfall events in flood generation in the Western Ghats Mountains, the region of India with the most intense rainfall.  

Combined parsimonious modelling with existing and new meteorological-hydrological time series to examine causes of extreme rainfall events, whether their particular characteristics are fully captured by flood models, whether the effects can be moderated by forests, and implications for rainfall-driven carbon transport. The key findings were that: 

• rainfall extremes are more sensitive to the Indian Ocean Dipole than to the La Niña phenomenon;
• data science models of flood response need parameters to change between storms of different intensity regimes, in addition to capturing basin wetness effects;
• effects of land cover (forest proportion) and variations in groundwater contribution do not mask rainstorm intensity effects;
• aquatic carbon is very sensitive to flood dynamics; and
• atmospheric influx of soil carbon is greatest during intermediate events rather than extreme events, while grassland conversion to tree plantation reduces these losses.

Integral to this is the dataset produced from the project, as well the capacity building by the India-UK team of over 100 individuals from government departments, NGOs and academic institutions in the techniques utilised in the project.