Climate Change Impacts on the Hydrology and Productivity of a Pine Plantation
There are increasing concerns in the forestry community about global climate change and variability associated with elevated atmospheric CO2. Changes in precipitation and increases in air temperature could impose additional stress on forests during the next century. For a study site in Carteret County, North Carolina, the General Circulation Model, HADCML, predicts that by the year 2099, maximum air temperature will increase 1.6 to 1.9°C, minimum temperature will increase 2.5 to 2.8°C, and precipitation will increase 0 to 10 percent compared to the mid-1990s. These changes vary from season to season. We utilized a forest ecosystem process model, PnET-II, for studying the potential effects of climate change on drainage outflow, evapotranspiration, leaf area index (LAI) and forest Net Primary Productivity (NPP). This model was first validated with long term drainage and LA1 data collected at a 25-ha mature loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) experimental watershed located in the North Carolina lower coastal plain. The site is flat with poorly drained soils and high groundwater table. Therefore, a high field capacity of 20 cm was used in the simulation to account for the topographic effects. This modeling study suggested that future climate change would cause a significant increase of drainage (6 percent) and forest productivity (2.5 percent). Future studies should consider the biological feedback (i.e., stomata conductance and water use efficiency) to air temperature change.