Global-scale human pressure evolution imprints on sustainability of river systems

Serena Ceola, Francesco Laio, Alberto Montanari
2019 Hydrology and Earth System Sciences  
Abstract. Human pressures on river systems pose a major threat to the sustainable development of human societies in the twenty-first century. Previous studies showed that a large part of global river systems was already exposed to relevant anthropogenic pressures at the beginning of this century. A relevant question that has never been explained in the literature so far is whether these pressures are increasing in time, therefore representing a potential future challenge to the sustainability
more » ... river systems. This paper proposes an index we call "Differential Human Pressure on Rivers" (DHPR) to quantify the annual evolution of human pressure on river systems. DHPR identifies a per-year percentage increment (or decrement) of normalized human pressures on river systems (i.e., ratio of annual values to long-term average). This index, based on annual nightlights and stationary discharge data, is estimated for 2195 major river basins over a period of 22 years, from 1992 to 2013. The results show that normalized annual human pressure on river systems increased globally, as indicated by an average DHPR value of 1.9 % per year, whereby the greatest increase occurred in the northern tropical and equatorial areas. The evaluation of DHPR over this 22-year period allows the identification of hot-spot areas, therefore offering guidance on where the development and implementation of mitigation strategies and plans are most needed (i.e., where human pressure is strongly increasing).
doi:10.5194/hess-23-3933-2019 fatcat:24yibnnwuzbbzjmux2rseokn24