Modelling Subarctic watershed dissolved organic carbon response to hydroclimatic regime
Sumit Sharma, Martyn N. Futter, Christopher Spence, Jason J. Venkiteswaran, Colin J. Whitfield
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 857
Shifts in hydroclimatic regimes associated with global climate change may impact freshwater availability and quality. In high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, where vast quantities of carbon are stored terrestrially, explaining landscape-scale carbon (C) budgets and associated pollutant transfer is necessary for understanding the impact of changing hydroclimatic regimes. We used a dynamic modelling approach to simulate streamflow, DOC concentration, and DOC export in a northern Canadian catchment that has undergone notable climate warming, and will continue to for the remainder of this century. The Integrated Catchment model for Carbon (INCA-C) was successfully calibrated to a multi-year period (2012–2016) that represents a range in hydrologic conditions. The model was subsequently run over 30-year periods representing baseline and two future climate scenarios. Average discharge is predicted to decrease under an elevated temperature scenario (22–27 % of baseline) but increase (116–175 % of baseline) under an elevated temperature and precipitation scenario. In the latter scenario the nival hydroclimatic regime is expected to shift to a combined nival and pluvial regime. Average DOC flux over 30 years is predicted to decrease (24–27 % of baseline) under the elevated temperature scenario, as higher DOC concentrations are offset by lower runoff. Under the elevated temperature and precipitation scenario, results suggest an increase in carbon export of 64–81 % above baseline. These increases are attributed to greater connectivity of the catchment. The largest increase in DOC export is expected to occur in early winter. These predicted changes in DOC export, particularly under a climate that is warmer and wetter could be part of larger ecosystem change and warrant additional monitoring efforts in the region.