Using Geospatial Analysis and Hydrologic Modeling to Estimate Climate Change Impacts on Nitrogen Export: Case Study for a Forest and Pasture Dominated Watershed in North Carolina

Alam M. J. , Ercan M. B. , Zahura F. T. , Goodall J. L.

ISPRS INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GEO-INFORMATION, cilt.7, 2018 (SCI İndekslerine Giren Dergi) identifier

  • Cilt numarası: 7 Konu: 7
  • Basım Tarihi: 2018
  • Doi Numarası: 10.3390/ijgi7070280


Many watersheds are currently experiencing streamflow and water quality related problems that are caused by excess nitrogen. Given that weather is a major driver of nitrogen transport through watersheds, the objective of this study was to predict climate change impacts on streamflow and nitrogen export. A forest and pasture dominated watershed in North Carolina Piedmont region was used as the study area. A physically-based Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model parameterized using geospatial data layers and spatially downscaled temperature and precipitation estimates from eight different General Circulation Models (GCMs) were used for this study. While temperature change predictions are fairly consistent across the GCMs for the study watershed, there is significant variability in precipitation change predictions across the GCMs, and this leads to uncertainty in the future conditions within the watershed. However, when the downscaled GCM projections were taken as a model ensemble, the results suggest that both high and low emission scenarios would result in an average increase in streamflow of 14.1% and 12.5%, respectively, and a decrease in the inorganic nitrogen export by 12.1% and 8.5%, respectively, by the end of the century. The results also show clear seasonal patterns with streamflow and nitrogen loading both increasing in fall and winter months by 97.8% and 50.8%, respectively, and decreasing by 20.2% and 35.5%, respectively, in spring and summer months by the end of the century.