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Understanding the transgression of global and regional freshwater planetary boundaries


Pastor,  A.V.
External Organizations;

Biemans,  H.
External Organizations;

Franssen,  W.
External Organizations;


Gerten,  Dieter
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Hoff,  Holger
External Organizations;

Ludwig,  F.
External Organizations;

Kabat,  P.
External Organizations;

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Pastor, A., Biemans, H., Franssen, W., Gerten, D., Hoff, H., Ludwig, F., Kabat, P. (2022): Understanding the transgression of global and regional freshwater planetary boundaries. - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 380, 2238, 20210294.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27395
Freshwater ecosystems have been degraded due to intensive freshwater abstraction. Therefore, environmental flow requirements (EFRs) methods have been proposed to maintain healthy rivers and/or restore river flows. In this study, we used the Variable Monthly Flow (VMF) method to calculate the transgression of freshwater planetary boundaries: (1) natural deficits in which flow does not meet EFRs due to climate variability, and (2) anthropogenic deficits caused by water abstractions. The novelty is that we calculated spatially and cumulative monthly water deficits by river types including the frequency, magnitude and causes of environmental flow (EF) deficits (climatic and/or anthropogenic). Water deficit was found to be a regional rather than a global concern (<5% of total discharge). The results show, that, from 1960 to 2000, perennial rivers with low flow alteration, such as the Amazon, had a EF deficit of 2-12% of the total discharge, and that the natural deficit was responsible for up to 75% of the total deficit. In rivers with high seasonality and high water abstractions such as the Indus, the total deficit represents up to 130% of its total discharge, 85% of which is due to withdrawals. We highlight the need to allocate water to humans and ecosystems sustainably.