Increased vegetation in mountainous headwaters amplifies water stress during dry periods
The dynamics of blue and green water partitioning under vegetation and climate change, as well as their different interactions during wet and dry periods, are poorly understood in the literature. We analyzed the impact of vegetation changes on blue water generation in a central Spanish Pyrenees basin undergoing intense afforestation. We found that vegetation change is a key driver of large decreases in blue water availability. The effect of vegetation increase is amplified during dry years, and mainly during the dry season, with streamflow reductions of more than 50%. This pattern can be attributed primarily to increased plant water consumption. Our findings highlight the importance of vegetation changes in reinforcing the decrease in water resource availability. With aridity expected to rise in southern Europe over the next few decades, interactions between climate and land management practices appear to be amplifying future hydrological drought risk in the region.