Drought events have been increasing across the western United States in recent years. Many studies have shown that, in the context of climate change, droughts will continue to be stronger, more frequent, and prolonged in the future. However, the response of forest ecosystems to droughts, particularly multi-year droughts, is not well understood. The objectives of this study are to examine how drought events of varying characteristics (e.g. intensity, duration, frequency, etc.) have affected the functioning of forest ecosystems historically, and how changing drought characteristics (including multi-year droughts) may affect forest functioning in a future climate. We utilize the Regional Hydro-Ecological Simulation System (RHESSys) to simulate impacts of both historical droughts and scenarios of future droughts on forest ecosystems. RHESSys is a spatially-distributed and process-based model that captures the interactions between coupled biogeochemical and hydrologic cycles at catchment scales. Here our case study is the Trail Creek catchment of the Big Wood River basin in Idaho, the Northwestern USA. For historical simulations, we use the gridded meteorological data of 1979 to 2016; for future climate scenarios, we utilize downscaled data from GCMs that have been demonstrated to capture drought events in the Northwest of the USA. From these climate projections, we identify various types of drought in intensity and duration, including multi-year drought events. We evaluate the following responses of ecosystems to these events: 1) evapotranspiration and streamflow; 2) gross primary productivity; 3) the post-drought recovery of plant biomass; and 4) the forest functioning and recovery after multi-year droughts. This research is part of an integration project to examine the roles of drought, insect outbreak, and forest management activities on wildfire activity and its impacts. This project will provide improved information for forest managers and communities in the wild urban interface to adapt to climate change.
Hanan, E.; Kolden, C.; Abatzoglou, J.; Tague, C.; Liu, M.; Adam, J. (2017): Modeling the Effects of Drought Events on Forest Ecosystem Functioning Historically and Under Scenarios of Climate Change. Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2017. Abstract H23B-1643..