Climate sensitivity to wetlands and wetland vegetation in mid-Holocene North Africa
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Wetland regions are important components of the local climate, with their own characteristic surface energy and moisture budgets. Realistic representation of wetlands, including the important vegetation component, may therefore be necessary for more accurate simulations of climate and climate change. However, many land-atmosphere coupled models either ignore wetlands or treat wetlands as bare, water-saturated soil, neglecting the vegetation present within wetland environments. This study investigates the possible response of the mid-Holocene climate of North Africa to changes in orbital forcing, both with and without the presence of wetlands. The location of these wetlands is guided by analysis of paleovegetation and wetland distribution. In this study, the wetland regime in the land surface component of a climate model was modified to incorporate vegetation. Field measurements have shown that vegetation affects water loss associated with evaporation (including transpiration) within a wetland area. Comparisons between non-vegetated wetland and vegetated wetland revealed an increase in local albedo that produced an associated decrease in net radiation, evaporation and precipitation in the vicinity of the wetlands regions. Based on an analysis of the model surface water balance, the calculated area of mid-Holocene wetland coverage for North Africa closely matches the observed. For the North African region as a whole, the effects of adding vegetation to the wetland produced relatively small changes in climate, but local recycling of water may have served to help maintain paleo wetland communities.
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