Publication Details

Assessing streamflow sensitivity of forested headwater catchments to disturbance and climate change in the central Appalachian Mountains region, USA

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​Young, David ; Zégre, Nicolas ; Edwards, Pamela ; Fernandez, Rodrigo

Year Published

2019

Publication

Science of The Total Environment. 694: 133382. 18 p.

Abstract

Forest headwater catchments are critical sources of water, but climate change and disturbance may threaten their ability to produce reliable and abundant water supplies. Quantifying how climate change and forest disturbances individually and interactively alter streamflow provides important insights into the stability and availability of water derived from headwater catchments that are particularly sensitive to change. We used long-term water balance data, forest inventory measurements, and a multiple-methods approach using Budyko decomposition and paired catchment models to assess how climate change and forest disturbances interact to alter streamflow in five headwater catchments located along a disturbance gradient in the Appalachian Mountains, USA. We found that disturbance was the dominant driver of streamflow changes; disturbed catchments were more sensitive to climate change than the undisturbed catchment; and disturbance was an important factor for a catchment’s sensitivity to climate change, principally through changes in species composition and xylem anatomy. Streamflow sensitivity to climate change increased with increasing proportion of diffuse porous species, suggesting that not all disturbances are equal when it comes to streamflow sensitivity to climate change. Climate change effects weremasked by disturbance in catchments with high magnitude/low frequency disturbances and amplified in a catchment with low magnitude/high frequency disturbance. Furthermore, critical assumptions of Budyko decomposition were assessed to evaluate the efficacy of applying decomposition to the headwater scale. Our study demonstrates the efficacy and usefulness of applying decomposition to scales potentially useful to resource managers and decision makers. Our study contributes to a more thorough understanding about the impacts of climate change on disturbed headwater catchments that will help managers to better prepare for and adapt to future changes.

Keywords

Headwater catchments; Streamflow sensitivity; Climate change; Disturbance; Budyko decomposition; Appalachian Mountains

Citation

​Young, David; Zégre, Nicolas; Edwards, Pamela; Fernandez, Rodrigo. 2019. Assessing streamflow sensitivity of forested headwater catchments to disturbance and climate change in the central Appalachian Mountains region, USA. Science of The Total Environment. 694: 133382. 18 p. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.07.188.​

Last updated on: July 19, 2021