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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 20, issue 2 | Copyright

Special issue: Vegetation changes under a changing environment and the impacts...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 935-952, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-935-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 01 Mar 2016

Research article | 01 Mar 2016

Projecting water yield and ecosystem productivity across the United States by linking an ecohydrological model to WRF dynamically downscaled climate data

Shanlei Sun1,2, Ge Sun3, Erika Cohen3, Steven G. McNulty3, Peter V. Caldwell4, Kai Duan1, and Yang Zhang1 Shanlei Sun et al.
  • 1Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA
  • 2Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
  • 3Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, USDA Forest Service, Raleigh, NC, USA
  • 4Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, USDA Forest Service, Otto, NC, USA

Abstract. Quantifying the potential impacts of climate change on water yield and ecosystem productivity is essential to developing sound watershed restoration plans, and ecosystem adaptation and mitigation strategies. This study links an ecohydrological model (Water Supply and Stress Index, WaSSI) with WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting Model) using dynamically downscaled climate data of the HadCM3 model under the IPCC SRES A2 emission scenario. We evaluated the future (2031–2060) changes in evapotranspiration (ET), water yield (Q) and gross primary productivity (GPP) from the baseline period of 1979–2007 across the 82773 watersheds (12-digit Hydrologic Unit Code level) in the coterminous US (CONUS). Across the CONUS, the future multi-year means show increases in annual precipitation (P) of 45 mm yr−1 (6 %), 1.8° C increase in temperature (T), 37 mm yr−1 (7 %) increase in ET, 9 mm yr−1 (3 %) increase in Q, and 106 gC m−2 yr−1 (9 %) increase in GPP. We found a large spatial variability in response to climate change across the CONUS 12-digit HUC watersheds, but in general, the majority would see consistent increases all variables evaluated. Over half of the watersheds, mostly found in the northeast and the southern part of the southwest, would see an increase in annual Q (> 100 mm yr−1 or 20 %). In addition, we also evaluated the future annual and monthly changes of hydrology and ecosystem productivity for the 18 Water Resource Regions (WRRs) or two-digit HUCs. The study provides an integrated method and example for comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on watershed water balances and ecosystem productivity at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Results may be useful for policy-makers and land managers to formulate appropriate watershed-specific strategies for sustaining water and carbon sources in the face of climate change.

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This study links an ecohydrological model with WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting Model) dynamically downscaled climate projections of the HadCM3 model under the IPCC SRES A2 emission scenario. Water yield and ecosystem productivity response to climate change were highly variable with an increasing trend across the 82 773 watersheds. Results are useful for policy-makers and land managers in formulating appropriate watershed-specific strategies for sustaining water and carbon sources.
This study links an ecohydrological model with WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting Model)...
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