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Predicting near-term effects of climate change on nitrogen transport to Chesapeake Bay

June 12, 2022

Understanding effects of climate change on nitrogen fate and transport in the environment is critical to nutrient management. We used climate projections within a previously calibrated spatially referenced regression (SPARROW) model to predict effects of expected climate change over 1995 through 2025 on total nitrogen fluxes to Chesapeake Bay and in watershed streams. Assuming nitrogen inputs and other watershed conditions remain at 2012 levels, effects of increasing temperature, runoff, streamflow, and stream velocity expected between 1995 and 2025 will include an estimated net 6.5% decline in annual nitrogen delivery to the bay from its watershed. This predicted decline is attributable to declines in the delivery of nitrogen from upland nonpoint sources to streams due to predicted warmer temperatures. Such temperature-driven declines in the delivery of nitrogen to streams more than offset predicted increased delivery to and within streams due to increased runoff and streamflow and may be attributable to increasing rates of denitrification or ammonia volatilization or to changes in plant phenology. Predicted climate-driven declines in nitrogen flux are generally similar across the watershed but vary slightly among major nonpoint source sectors and tributary watersheds. Nitrogen contributions to the bay from point sources are not affected by temperature-driven changes in delivery from uplands and are therefore predicted to increase slightly between 1995 and 2025.

Publication Year 2022
Title Predicting near-term effects of climate change on nitrogen transport to Chesapeake Bay
DOI 10.1111/1752-1688.13017
Authors Scott Ator, Gregory E. Schwarz, Andrew Sekellick, Gopal Bhatt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Index ID 70232212
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center