Southeast CASC-supported researchers explored how higher elevation forests are impacting water availability for low elevation ecosystems during drought.
High Elevation Trees and Water Use During Drought
How forests adapt to drought can vary based on their elevation, with forests at higher elevations getting first access to rainfall. This can leave less water for forests located downstream. To better understand forests' access to water across different elevation levels, Southeast CASC Global Change Fellow, Katie McQuillan, and co-authors tracked how forests were using water in periods of moderate, severe and extreme drought.
The researchers shared their findings in a recent article in Landscape Ecology indicating that while lower elevation forests decreased their water consumption, forests found at higher elevations were drinking up more water than average. These findings indicate that these changes between forests and water use could lead to more severe water shortages for communities and other ecosystems in the Blue Ridge Mountains.