A global perspective of regional vegetation and hydrologic sensitivities from climatic change
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
1994 IAVS - the International Association of Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 5, Issue 5, pages 715–730, October 1994
How to Cite
Neilson, R. P. and Marks, D. (1994), A global perspective of regional vegetation and hydrologic sensitivities from climatic change. Journal of Vegetation Science, 5: 715–730. doi: 10.2307/3235885
- Issue published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Received 20 November 1993; Revision received 21 April 1994; Accepted 22 August 1994.
- Greenhouse effect;
- Vegetation distribution;
- Water balance;
- Water use efficiency
Abstract. A biogeographic model, MAPSS (Mapped Atmosphere-Plant-Soil System), predicts changes in vegetation leaf area index (LAI), site water balance and runoff, as well as changes in biome boundaries. Potential scenarios of global and regional equilibrium changes in LAI and terrestrial water balance under 2 x CO2 climate from five different general circulation models (GCMs) are presented. Regional patterns of vegetation change and annual runoff are surprisingly consistent among the five GCM scenarios, given the general lack of consistency in predicted changes in regional precipitation patterns. Two factors contribute to the consistency among the GCMs of the regional ecological impacts of climatic change: (1) regional, temperature-induced increases in potential evapo-transpiration (PET) tend to more than offset regional increases in precipitation; and (2) the interplay between the general circulation and the continental margins and mountain ranges produces a fairly stable pattern of regionally specific sensitivity to climatic change. Two areas exhibiting among the greatest sensitivity to drought-induced forest decline are eastern North America and eastern Europe to western Russia. Regional runoff patterns exhibit much greater spatial variation in the sign of the response than do the LAI changes, even though they are deterministically linked in the model. Uncertainties with respect to PET or vegetation water use efficiency calculations can alter the simulated sign of regional responses, but the relative responses of adjacent regions appear to be largely a function of the background climate, rather than the vagaries of the GCMs, and are intrinsic to the landscape. Thus, spatial uncertainty maps can be drawn even under the current generation of GCMs.