Site Level Climate Downscaling for Forecasting Water Balance Stress and Reslience of Acadian Boreal Trees

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Bjorn-Gustaf Brooks, US Forest Service Asheville, Asheville, NC, United States and Shawn Serbin, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, United States
A downscaling framework is presented and applied to physiological and climatic data for projecting future climate resilience of one key boreal tree species, black spruce, in Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia. The technique is based on a combination of probabilistic downscaling methods and control system theory, which together are used to transform large-scale future climate input (air temperature, humidity) to local scale climate parameters important to plant biophysical processes (vapor pressure deficit). Large-scale forecast data from the Community Earth System Model were downscaled spatially then temporally based on the cumulative distributions and sub-daily patterns from corresponding observational data at North Mountain (Cape Breton). Validation over historical decades shows that this technique provides hourly temperature and vapor pressure deficit data accurate to within 0.7%. Further we applied these environmental factors to a species specific empirical model of stomatal conductance for black spruce to compare differences in predicted water regulation response when large-scale (ESM) data are used as drivers versus localized data transformed using this new site-level downscaling technique. We observe through this synthetic study that over historical to contemporary periods (1850-2006) differences between large-scale and localized forecasts of stomatal conductance were small but that future climate extremes (2006-2100) have a strong effect on derived water balance in black spruce. These results also suggest that black spruce in the Cape Breton Highlands may have biophysical responses to climate change that are not predicted by spatially coarse (1°) data, which does not include site level extremes that in this study are shown to strongly curb future growth rates in black spruce as present day climate extremes become common place.