Southern Forested Wetlands Are Projected to Become Drier in the Future

Extensive southern forested wetlands provide important ecosystem services. A study of five typical forested wetlands across the Southeast suggests that these wetlands will likely become drier or may even disappear under severe climate change scenarios by the end of this century. This information can help land managers develop climate change mitigation and adaptation methods to protect and manage these important natural resources.

An aerial view of cypress swamps embedded in pine flatwoods Extensive forested wetlands found in the southeastern United States provide important ecosystem functions and services such as timber supply, water quality improvement, recreation, and wildlife habitat. However, they are at risk due to ongoing climate and land use change. Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center researchers and partners examined five typical forested wetlands across the Southeast including cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, Carolina bays, drained pocosins, and natural bottomland hardwoods. They constructed a series of models to relate observed water level fluctuations to historic climate and then applied the models to predict future water levels under 20 climate change scenarios. Compared to the historical period, all five wetlands are projected to become drier, and some may even disappear under severe climate change scenarios due to shifts in precipitation and ecosystem water use. This information, published in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, can help land managers develop climate change mitigation and adaptation methods to protect and manage these important wetlands.

Pictured: Cypress swamps embedded in pine flatwoods were among the forested wetland study sites. Photo by USDA Forest Service.


Related publications:


External Partners/Collaborators:
Duke University; North Carolina State University

Contact: Ge Sun, Research Hydrologist, ge.sun@usda.gov  


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