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A coupled terrestrial and aquatic biogeophysical model of the Upper Merrimack River watershed, New Hampshire, to inform ecosystem services evaluation and management under climate and land-cover change

Nihar R Samal, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire
Wilfred M Wollheim, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire
Shan Zuidema, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Robert J Stewart, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Zaixing Zhou, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Madeleine M Mineau, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Mark E Borsuk, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University
Kevin H Gardner, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New Hampshire
Stanley Glidden, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Tao Huang, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
David A Lutz, Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College
Georgia Mavrommati, School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston
Alexandra M Thorn, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School for Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Cameron P Wake, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Matthew Huber, Earth Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire; Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department, Purdue University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09662-220418

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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.

Key words

climate; coupled model; ecosystem services; indicators land cover; scenarios

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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