Regional Impacts


I have been interested in assessing the regional impacts of climate and land use change on the carbon and hydrological cycles.  The Pennsylvania study (Felzer, 2012) determined how a warming climate and elevated CO2 under a land use scenario of enhanced urbanization would affect carbon sequestration from disturbed and regrowing forests, runoff, downstream leaching of inorganic nitrogen, and crop yield.   I am also interested in studying the effects of climate extremes (floods and droughts) on ecosystems.  An initial study presented at AGU with student Lauren Schneck posed the question of how models used by water managers and FEMA to produce flood insurance maps would differ if future, rather than historical climate, was considered.  The abstract for the PA paper and some key figures, as well as the AGU poster, as provided below.




Future climate projections indicate that Pennsylvania will get significantly warmer and wetter due to continued increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.  Using the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model version Hydro2 (TEM-Hydro2), this study explores the effect of different climate and land use scenarios on carbon, nitrogen, and water dynamics during the 20th and 21st centuries.  TEM-Hydro2 runs are forced by historical 20th century climate data and by 21st century climate projections from the NCAR CCSM3.0 IPCC A2 and B1 scenarios, a relatively high and low GHG emissions scenario, respectively.   Regrowing forests are the only ecosystem with positive Net Carbon Exchange (NCE) and sequestered more than 12,000 g C m-2 during the 20th century.  The highest rates of leaching of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) occurred in fertilized croplands in the 20th century.  Twenty first century runoff increases by 30% in the A2 scenario and 20% in the B1 scenario, but DIN leaching only increases in the A2 scenario. DIN leaching depends upon both runoff and available inorganic nitrogen, which decreases due to high productivity and enhanced plant nitrogen uptake.  The effect of increasing urbanization in the 21st century is to reduce NCE by about 34% in both climate scenarios, while water runoff increases by 5% and DIN leaching decreases by 17%.  The reduced leaching is the result of converting agricultural land to suburban areas, which are a combination of turflawn and forests, both of which have lower leaching rates than croplands or pastures.  Incorporating realistic forest stand age substantially increases the NCE but has little effect on runoff or DIN leaching.  Maize yields decrease in the A2 scenario due to the excessive leaching, but increase in the B1 scenario.  These results illustrate why it is important to include scenarios of both GHG emissions and realistic land use changes in model projections of the regional impacts of climate change in the 21st century.


Felzer, B. Carbon, 2012, Nitrogen, and Water Response to Climate and Land Use Changes in Pennsylvania during the 20th and 21st Centuries, Ecological Modelling, 240: 49-63.[


Figure 1: New model structure.





Figure 2: Pennsylvania Scenarios





AGU Poster: Flood Study







Schneck, L. and Felzer, B.S. 2012. Projected 21st Century Precipitation Increases in Eastern Pennsylvania and the Need for Adaptive Floodplain Management. Fall 2012 AGU, poster presentation, presented by Felzer.