Modeling potential hydrochemical responses to climate change and increasing CO2 at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest using a dynamic biogeochemical model (PnET-BGC)

Afshin Pourmokhtarian, Charles T. Driscoll, John L. Campbell, Katharine Hayhoe

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35 Scopus citations


Dynamic hydrochemical models are useful tools for understanding and predicting the interactive effects of climate change, atmospheric CO 2, and atmospheric deposition on the hydrology and water quality of forested watersheds. We used the biogeochemical model, PnET-BGC, to evaluate the effects of potential future changes in temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and atmospheric CO2 on pools, concentrations, and fluxes of major elements at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, United States. Future climate projections used to run PnET-BGC were generated specifically for the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest with a statistical technique that downscales climate output (e.g., air temperature, precipitation, solar radiation) from atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) to a finer temporal and spatial resolution. These climate projections indicate that over the twenty-first century, average air temperature will increase at the site by 1.7C to 6.5C with simultaneous increases in annual average precipitation ranging from 4 to 32 cm above the long-term mean (1970-2000). PnET-BGC simulations under future climate change show a shift in hydrology characterized by later snowpack development, earlier spring discharge (snowmelt), greater evapotranspiration, and a slight increase in annual water yield (associated with CO2 effects on vegetation). Model results indicate that under elevated temperature, net soil nitrogen mineralization and nitrification markedly increase, resulting in acidification of soil and stream water, thereby altering the quality of water draining from forested watersheds. Invoking a CO2 fertilization effect on vegetation under climate change substantially mitigates watershed nitrogen loss, highlighting the need for a more thorough understanding of CO2 effects on forest vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW07514
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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