Climate Research and Development Program

Water Quality and Quantity

Clean water is critical for healthy ecosystems and societies. Its availability is affected by interactions among climate, geology, biota, and human modification of the land. The Climate R&D Program conducts research to document long-term patterns and drivers of water supply and to improve projections of future change and its impacts on ecosystems, communities, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Filter Total Items: 18
Date published: December 2, 2020
Status: Active

Understanding long-term drivers of vegetation change and stability in the Southern Rocky Mountains with paleoecological data and ecological models

Drought and fire are powerful disturbance agents that can trigger rapid and lasting changes in the forests of western North America. Over the last decade, increases in fire size and severity coincided with warming, drought, and earlier snowmelt, factors that projected climatic changes are likely to exacerbate. However, recent observations are brief relative to the lifespans of trees and...

Date published: March 25, 2020
Status: Active

Past Perspectives of Water in the West

In the intermountain west, seasonal precipitation extremes, combined with population growth, are creating new challenges for the management of water resources, ecosystems, and geologic hazards. This research contributes a comprehensive long-term context for a deeper understanding of past hydrologic variability, including the magnitude and frequency of drought and flood extremes and ecosystem...

Date published: February 26, 2020
Status: Active

Impacts of coastal and watershed changes on upper estuaries: causes and implications of wetland ecosystem transitions along the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts

Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are coastal transition zones where freshwater rivers meet tidal seawater.  As sea levels rise, tidal forces move saltier water farther upstream, extending into freshwater wetland areas. Human changes to the surrounding landscape may amplify the effects of this tidal extension, impacting the resiliency and function of the upper estuarine wetlands. One...

Contacts: Ken Krauss, Ph.D., Gregory Noe, Camille LaFosse Stagg, Ph.D., Hongqing Wang, Ph.D., Eric J Ward, Ph.D., Jamie A. Duberstein, William H. Conner, Zhaohua Dai, Thomas L. O'Halloran
Date published: April 24, 2019
Status: Active

Accelerating changes and transformations in western mountain lakes

While research into eutrophication has been a cornerstone of limnology for more than 100 years, only recently has it become a topic for the remote alpine lakes that are icons of protected national parks and wilderness areas. National park lakes in the western U.S. are threatened by global change, specifically air pollution, warming, and their interactions, and the problem is quickly worsening...

Date published: April 22, 2019
Status: Active

Actual evapotranspiration, flash droughts, water deficits, reduced vegetative growth, and wildfires: the effects of seasonally water-limited conditions in a changing climate

The Southeastern U.S. experiences recurring hydrologic droughts, which can reduce water availability for human consumption and ecosystem services, leading to plant stress and reduced plant growth. This project examines relationships between drought and the water cycle in the Southeast with data from the Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) near Atlanta, Georgia and other Southeastern...

Date published: April 17, 2019
Status: Active

Water Quality Across Regional Stream Networks: The Influence of Land Cover and Land Use, Climate, and Biogeochemical Processing on Spatiotemporal Variance

Land cover and land use (LC/LU), climate, and biogeochemical processing are significant drivers of water quality in streams and rivers over broad scales of space and time. As LC/LU and climate continue to change we can expect changes in water quality. This project seeks to understand the drivers of spatial and temporal variability in water quality across scales using new and existing data to...

Date published: April 17, 2019
Status: Active

Mountains to sea – fluvial transport of carbon and nutrients and effects on ecosystems and people

Stream transport (lateral transfer) of carbon remains a poorly understood flux within the global carbon budget.  This research addresses the need to refine our knowledge of both provenance and transformations of Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) as it moves from mountains to sea.  Interpreting shifts in carbon quality with increasing stream order, and how these patterns change with variation in...

Date published: April 15, 2019
Status: Active

Effects of disturbance and drought on the forests and hydrology of the Southern Rocky Mountains

Climate-related forest disturbances, particularly drought-induced tree mortality and large, high-severity fires from increasingly warm and dry conditions, are altering forest ecosystems and the ecosystem services society depends on (e.g., water supplies).  Our research combines long-term place-based ecological data, diverse methods (e.g., paleo, remote-sensing), and networking approaches to...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Linking water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles in seasonally snow-covered catchments under changing land resource conditions

Changes in snowpack accumulation, distribution, and melt in high-elevation catchments are likely to have important impacts on water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, which are tightly coupled through exchanges of energy and biogeochemical compounds between atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic environments.  Our research helps to better understand how changes in climate will affect water...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Biogeochemistry of glaciers

Significant change to the Arctic and sub-arctic water cycle is underway, impacting hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes.  In southcentral Alaska, glacier mass loss, changes to precipitation (including the rain/snow fraction), thawing ground ice, and vegetation encroachment will change both magnitude and timing of water and solute fluxes downstream.  Although altered fluxes of limiting...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Forest health and drought response

Forests provide society with economically important and often irreplaceable goods and services, such as wood products, carbon sequestration, clean water, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities.  Yet hotter droughts (droughts in which unusually high temperatures exacerbate the effects of low precipitation) are projected to increase in frequency and intensity in coming decades, potentially...

Date published: December 13, 2018
Status: Active

Connections between Forested and Urban Landscapes and Implications for Water Supply

Interactions between forested and urban landscapes can lead to reciprocal effects that have substantial impacts on water supply and ecology. Air pollution from urban and forested landscapes can be deposited on adjacent forests, while forest disturbance, such as wildfires and floods, can remobilize those contaminants. Additionally, pollutants from legacy land use (e.g., mining) can also be...