In that study, warming temperatures at some of the headwater basins analyzed have indeed resulted in reduced streamflow due to higher transpiration and evaporation to the atmosphere. But these changes may be difficult to perceive, Jones said, given other influences on streamflow, including municipal and agricultural water usage, forest management, wildfire, hurricanes, and natural climate cycles.
"When you look at an individual watershed over a short period of time, it is difficult to disentangle the natural and human-induced variations," Jones said, "because hydrologic systems can be quite complex. But when you look at dozens of systems over several decades, you can begin to gauge the impact of changing vegetation, climate cycles and climate trends.
"That is the beauty of these long-term research sites," she said. "They can provide nuanced insights that are crucial to effective management of water supplies in a changing world."
Jones said the important message in the research is that the impacts of climate change are not simple and straightforward. Through continuing study of how ecosystems adapt to changing conditions, resource managers may be able to adapt policies or mimic natural processes that offer the most favorable conditions for humans and ecosystems to thrive.
|Contact: Julia Jones|
Oregon State University