Water yield modelling, sensitivity analysis and validation: A study for Portugal

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The spatially explicit assessment of freshwater is key to introduce the ecosystem services (ES) concept into decision-making processes. Many tools are being developed to model water balance and to analyze the effects of meteorological conditions on water ES behaviors at multiple spatial scales. The current study uses the InVEST Annual Water Yield Model (WYM) to assess water availability in watersheds of the mainland of Portugal. The methodology included sensitivity analysis to test different parameters of the model and validation using the European Environment Agency (EEA) database on the quantity of Europe’s water resources. To evaluate the models’ sensitivity, Pearson’s correlation coefficients and statistical methods were calculated for each simulation. Results at the national level show a correlation coefficient of 0.803 with statistical significance for 0.01 one-tail. Water yield was underestimated by 56.5 mm/ha/year in the North of the country and overestimated by 58.1 mm/ha/year in the South. This difference was explained through the spatial-temporal assessment of the main climatic variables used as input. This study contributes to a methodology to assess the level of confidence in the WYM outputs and can be used to support the trustworthiness of water availability studies, using open-access data and software.

Original languageEnglish
Article number494
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Drought regulation
  • Land use and land cover
  • Model validation
  • Natural capital
  • Water yield


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