Hazbavi, Z., Baartman, J.A.M., Nunes, J.P., Keesstra, S.D. & Sadeghi, S.H. (2018) Changeability of Reliability, Resilience and Vulnerability indicators with respect to drought patterns.Ecological Indicators, 87, 196-208. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.12.054 (IF2017 3,983; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Climate-related extremes such as droughts have led to significant impacts on some watersheds. To assess watershed health and develop effective management plans, information about the function and structure of the watersheds in the context of their climatic response, especially to take into account rainfall anomalies and climate change adaptation, is needed. Integration of climatic variables with reliability, resilience and vulnerability (RRV) indicators, is a novel approach for generating this information. This study investigated the behavior of RRV indicators with respect to rainfall variability and drought patterns for three watersheds governed by different climates. Reliability was defined as the probability of a watershed to be in the range of satisfactory Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) values. Resilience was indicated as the speed of recovery from an unsatisfactory condition. Vulnerability was defined as a function of the exposure of a watershed to climate change and variation using the SPI. The study areas were the Foyle Watershed in Northern Ireland (temperate oceanic, Cfb), the Xarrama Watershed in Portugal (Mediterranean hot summer, Csa) and the Shazand Watershed in Iran (moderate to cold semi-arid (Bsk). Based on the SPI pattern of each watershed, the SPI of −0.1 for the Foyle and Xarrama watersheds and +0.1 for the Shazand Watershed was selected as the drought threshold. The drought based RRV index was subsequently calculated from long-term (1981–2012) RRV indicators, resulting in means of 0.52 ± 0.25, 0.53 ± 0.21 and 0.30 ± 0.18 for the three watersheds, respectively. These means reflect the status of the watersheds in terms of climatic conditions, which was moderate dry (0.41–0.60) for the Foyle and Xarrama watersheds and dry (0.21–0.40) for the Shazand Watershed. The temporal trend of the drought based RRV index was found to be non-significantly increasing (P-value >0.52) for the Foyle and Xarrama watersheds and non-significantly decreasing for the Shazand Watershed (P-value >0.48). The vulnerability indicator and drought based RRV index were significantly (p-value = 0.00) affected by the climatological gradient. The results of the conceptual framework linked to statistical trends can provide researchers, policy makers, and land managers a more comprehensive base to assess variability of watershed health and design drought management plans.