A coupled terrestrial and aquatic biogeophysical model of the Upper Merrimack River watershed, New Hampshire, to inform ecosystem services evaluation and management under climate change and land-cover changes
Click here to read more about this new paper.
Abstract: Accurate quantification of ecosystem services (ES) at regional scales is increasingly important for making informed decisions in the face of environmental change. We linked terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem process models to simulate the spatial and temporal distribution of hydrological and water quality characteristics related to ecosystem services. The linked model integrates two existing models (a forest ecosystem model and a river network model) to establish consistent responses to changing drivers across climate, terrestrial, and aquatic domains. The linked model is spatially distributed, accounts for terrestrial–aquatic and upstream–downstream linkages, and operates on a daily time-step, all characteristics needed to understand regional responses. The model was applied to the diverse landscapes of the Upper Merrimack River watershed, New Hampshire, USA. Potential changes in future environmental functions were evaluated using statistically downscaled global climate model simulations (both a high and low emission scenario) coupled with scenarios of changing land cover (centralized vs. dispersed land development) for the time period of 1980–2099. Projections of climate, land cover, and water quality were translated into a suite of environmental indicators that represent conditions relevant to important ecosystem services and were designed to be readily understood by the public. Model projections show that climate will have a greater influence on future aquatic ecosystem services (flooding, drinking water, fish habitat, and nitrogen export) than plausible changes in land cover. Minimal changes in aquatic environmental indicators are predicted through 2050, after which the high emissions scenarios show intensifying impacts. The spatially distributed modeling approach indicates that heavily populated portions of the watershed will show the strongest responses. Management of land cover could attenuate some of the changes associated with climate change and should be considered in future planning for the region.