, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 349-368

Regional hydrologic and carbon balance responses of forests resulting from potential climate change

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Abstract

The projected response of coniferous forests to a climatic change scenario of doubled atmospheric CO2, air temperature of +4 °C, and +10% precipitation was studied using a computer simulation model of forest ecosystem processes. A topographically complex forested region of Montana was simulated to study regional climate change induced forest responses. In general, increases of 10–20% in LAI, and 20–30% in evapotranspiration (ET) and photosynthesis (PSN) were projected. Snowpack duration decreased by 19–69 days depending on location, and growing season length increased proportionally. However, hydrologic outflow, primarily fed by snowmelt in this region, was projected to decrease by as much as 30%, which could virtually dry up rivers and irrigation water in the future.

To understand the simulated forest responses, and explore the extent to which these results might apply continentally, seasonal hydrologic partitioning between outflow and ET, PSN, respiration, and net primary production (NPP) were simulated for two contrasting climates of Jacksonville, Florida (hot, wet) and Missoula, Montana (cold, dry). Three forest responses were studied sequentially from; climate change alone, addition of CO2 induced tree physiological responses of-30% stomatal conductance and +30% photosynthetic rates, and finally with a reequilibration of forest leaf area index (LAI), derived by a hydrologic equilibrium theory. NPP was projected to increase 88%, and ET 10%, in Missoula, MT, yet dcrease 5% and 16% respectively for Jacksonville, FL, emphasizing the contrasting forest responses possible with future climatic change.