, Volume 124, Issue 1-2, pp 333-346
Date: 22 Feb 2014

Downscaling the non-stationary effect of climate forcing on local-scale dynamics: the importance of environmental filters

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Abstract

Large-scale climatic variability exerts a strong influence on local-scale environmental patterns and processes. However, disentangling the effects of global climate forcing from observed patterns in local processes requires robust understanding of the underlying patterns of temporal variability and consideration of the specific setting in which these processes take place. Here, we examine the influence of intermediate-scale environmental factors in modulating the effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) on long-term water level dynamics in natural lakes. Lakes are ideal systems to study these relationships because of their acute sensitivity to environmental change and their linkages with multi-scale processes through the hydrological cycle. Using a novel combination of analytical tools, we show that the coupling between the NAO and water level dynamics is markedly nonstationary (i.e., time-frequency variant) and strongly lake-specific, filtered through the particular weather and environmental settings of lakes and their catchments. We conclude that to fully understand the nonstationary interplay between climate and ecology, we need first to disentangle the intermediate links between climate and different embedded environmental factors related to the process of interest. This knowledge should enhance significantly our ability to produce adequate long-term water resource management strategies, to preserve biological diversity and to achieve sustainable development under a globally changing climate.