Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 174, Issue 1–4, pp 91–106 | Cite as

One century of hydrological monitoring in two small catchments with different forest coverage

  • Manfred Stähli
  • Alexandre Badoux
  • Andreas Ludwig
  • Karl Steiner
  • Massimiliano Zappa
  • Christoph Hegg


Long-term data on precipitation and runoff are essential to draw firm conclusions about the behavior and trends of hydrological catchments that may be influenced by land use and climate change. Here the longest continuous runoff records from small catchments (<1 km2) in Switzerland (and possibly worldwide) are reported. The history of the hydrological monitoring in the Sperbel- and Rappengraben (Emmental) is summarized, and inherent uncertainties in the data arising from the operation of the gauges are described. The runoff stations operated safely for more than 90% of the summer months when most of the major flood events occurred. Nevertheless, the absolute values of peak runoff during the largest flood events are subject to considerable uncertainty. The observed differences in average, base, and peak runoff can only partly be attributed to the substantial differences in forest coverage. This treasure trove of data can be used in various ways, exemplified here with an analysis of the generalized extreme value distributions of the two catchments. These distributions, and hence flood return periods, have varied greatly in the course of one century, influenced by the occurrence of single extreme events. The data will be made publicly available for the further analysis of the mechanisms governing the runoff behavior of small catchments, as well as for testing stochastic and deterministic models.


Runoff Hydrology Small catchments Forest coverage Extreme value distribution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred Stähli
    • 1
  • Alexandre Badoux
    • 1
  • Andreas Ludwig
    • 1
  • Karl Steiner
    • 1
  • Massimiliano Zappa
    • 1
  • Christoph Hegg
    • 1
  1. 1.Mountain Hydrology and TorrentsSwiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland

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