Modeling impacts of climate and land use change on ecosystem processes to quantify exposure to climate change in two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
Urban land cover and associated impervious surface area is expected to increase by as much as 50% over the next few decades across substantial portions of the United States. In combination with urban expansion, increases in temperature and changes in precipitation are expected to impact ecosystems through changes in productivity, disturbance and hydrological properties. In this study, we use the NASA Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System Biogeochemical Cycle (TOPS-BGC) model to explore the combined impacts of urbanization and climate change on hydrologic dynamics (snowmelt, runoff, and evapotranspiration) and vegetation carbon uptake (gross productivity). The model is driven using land cover predictions from the Spatially Explicit Regional Growth Model (SERGoM) to quantify projected changes in impervious surface area, and climate projections from the 30 arc-second NASA Earth Exchange Downscaled Climate Projection (NEX-DCP30) dataset derived from the CMIP5 climate scenarios.
We present the modeling approach and an analysis of the ecosystem impacts projected to occur in the Great Northern and Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Under the ensemble average of the CMIP5 models and land cover change scenarios for both representative concentration pathways (RCPs) 4.5 and 8.5, both LCCs are predicted to experience increases in maximum and minimum temperatures as well as annual average precipitation. In the Great Northern LCC, this is projected to lead to increased annual runoff, especially under RCP 8.5. Earlier melt of the winter snow pack and increased evapotranspiration, however, reduce summer streamflow and soil water content, leading to a net reduction in vegetation productivity across much of the Great Northern LCC, with stronger trends occurring under RCP 8.5. Increased runoff is also projected to occur in the Appalachian LCC under both RCP 4.5 and 8.5. However, under RCP 4.5, the model predicts that the warmer wetter conditions will lead to increases in vegetation productivity across much of the Appalachian LCC, while under RCP 8.5, the effects of increased precipitation are not enough to keep up with increases in evapotranspiration, leading to projected reductions in vegetation productivity across the entire LCC.