• Development of a parameterization for mesoscale hydrological modeling and application to landscape and climate change in the Interior Alaska boreal forest ecosystem

      Endalamaw, Abraham Melesse; Bolton, William R.; Young-Robertson, Jessica M.; Hinzman, Larry; Morton, Donald; Mölders, Nicole; Fochesatto, G. Javier (2017-08)
      The Interior Alaska boreal forest ecosystem is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth and lies between the warmer southerly temperate and colder Arctic regions. The ecosystem is underlain by discontinuous permafrost. The presence or absence of permafrost primarily controls water pathways and ecosystem composition. As a result, the region hosts two distinct ecotypes that transition over a very short spatial scale - often on the order of meters. Accurate mesoscale hydrological modeling of the region is critical as the region is experiencing unprecedented ecological and hydrological changes that have regional and global implications. However, accurate representation of the landscape heterogeneity and mesoscale hydrological processes has remained a big challenge. This study addressed this challenge by developing a simple landscape model from the hill-slope studies and in situ measurements over the past several decades. The new approach improves the mesoscale prediction of several hydrological processes including streamflow and evapotranspiration (ET). The impact of climate induced landscape change under a changing climate is also investigated. In the projected climate scenario, Interior Alaska is projected to undergo a major landscape shift including transitioning from a coniferous-dominated to deciduous-dominated ecosystem and from discontinuous permafrost to either a sporadic or isolated permafrost region. This major landscape shift is predicted to have a larger and complex impact in the predicted runoff, evapotranspiration, and moisture deficit (precipitation minus evapotranspiration). Overall, a large increase in runoff, evapotranspiration, and moisture deficit is predicted under future climate. Most hydrological climate change impact studies do not usually include the projected change in landscape into the model. In this study, we found that ignoring the projected ecosystem change could lead to an inaccurate conclusion. Hence, climate-induced vegetation and permafrost changes must be considered in order to fully account for the changes in hydrology.