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Title: Assessing mechanisms of climate change impact on the upland forest water balance of the Willamette River Basin, Oregon

Projected changes in air temperature, precipitation, and vapor pressure for the Willamette River Basin (Oregon, USA) over the next century will have significant impacts on the river basin water balance, notably on the amount of evapotranspiration (ET). Mechanisms of impact on ET will be both direct and indirect, but there is limited understanding of their absolute and relative magnitudes. Here, we developed a spatially explicit, daily time‐step, modeling infrastructure to simulate the basin‐wide water balance that accounts for meteorological influences, as well as effects mediated by changing vegetation cover type, leaf area, and ecophysiology. Three CMIP5 climate scenarios (Lowclim, Reference, and HighClim) were run for the 2010–2100 period. Besides warmer temperatures, the climate scenarios were characterized by wetter winters and increasing vapor pressure deficits. In the mid‐range Reference scenario, our landscape simulation model (Envision) projected a continuation of forest cover on the uplands but a threefold increase in area burned per year. A decline (12–30%) in basin‐wide mean leaf area index (LAI) in forests was projected in all scenarios. The lower LAIs drove a corresponding decline in ET. In a sensitivity test, the effect of increasing CO2on stomatal conductance induced a further substantial decrease (11–18%) in basin‐wide mean ET. The net effect of decreases in ET and increases in winter precipitation was an increase in annual streamflow. These results support the inclusion of changes in land cover, land use, LAI, and ecophysiology in efforts to anticipate impacts of climate change on basin‐scale water balances.

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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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