Projections of Future Soil Temperature and Water Content for Three Southern Quebec Forested Sites

Daniel Houle Direction de la Recherche Forestière du Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Quebec City, and Ouranos, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Ariane Bouffard Ouranos, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Louis Duchesne Direction de la Recherche Forestière du Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

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Travis Logan Ouranos, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Richard Harvey Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment Canada, Ouranos, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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Abstract

The impacts of climate change on future soil temperature Ts and soil moisture Ms of northern forests are uncertain. In this study, the authors first calibrated Ts and Ms models [Forest Soil Temperature Model (ForSTeM) and Forest Hydrology Model (ForHyM), respectively] using long-term observations of Ts and Ms at different depths measured at three forest sites in eastern Canada. The two models were then used to project Ts and Ms for the period 1971–2100 using historical and future climate scenarios generated by one regional and five global climate models. Results indicate good model performance by ForSTeM and ForHyM in predicting observed Ts and Ms values at various depths for the three sites. Projected annual-mean Ts at these sites increased between 1.1° and 1.9°C and between 1.9° and 3.3°C from the present 30-yr averages (1971–2000) to the periods 2040–69 and 2070–99, respectively. Increases as high as 5.0°C were projected at the black spruce site during the growing season (June) for the period 2070–99. Changes in annual-mean Ms were relatively small; however, seasonally Ms is projected to increase in April, because of earlier snowmelt, and to decrease during the growing season, mainly because of higher evapotranspiration rates. Soil moisture in the growing season could be reduced by 20%–40% for the period 2070–99 compared to the reference period. The projected warmer and drier soil conditions in the growing season could have significant impacts on forests growth and biogeochemical cycles.

Corresponding author address: Daniel Houle, Direction de la Recherche Forestière du Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 2700 Rue Einstein, Quebec QC G1P 3H8, Canada. E-mail: daniel.houle@mrnf.gouv.qc.ca

Abstract

The impacts of climate change on future soil temperature Ts and soil moisture Ms of northern forests are uncertain. In this study, the authors first calibrated Ts and Ms models [Forest Soil Temperature Model (ForSTeM) and Forest Hydrology Model (ForHyM), respectively] using long-term observations of Ts and Ms at different depths measured at three forest sites in eastern Canada. The two models were then used to project Ts and Ms for the period 1971–2100 using historical and future climate scenarios generated by one regional and five global climate models. Results indicate good model performance by ForSTeM and ForHyM in predicting observed Ts and Ms values at various depths for the three sites. Projected annual-mean Ts at these sites increased between 1.1° and 1.9°C and between 1.9° and 3.3°C from the present 30-yr averages (1971–2000) to the periods 2040–69 and 2070–99, respectively. Increases as high as 5.0°C were projected at the black spruce site during the growing season (June) for the period 2070–99. Changes in annual-mean Ms were relatively small; however, seasonally Ms is projected to increase in April, because of earlier snowmelt, and to decrease during the growing season, mainly because of higher evapotranspiration rates. Soil moisture in the growing season could be reduced by 20%–40% for the period 2070–99 compared to the reference period. The projected warmer and drier soil conditions in the growing season could have significant impacts on forests growth and biogeochemical cycles.

Corresponding author address: Daniel Houle, Direction de la Recherche Forestière du Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 2700 Rue Einstein, Quebec QC G1P 3H8, Canada. E-mail: daniel.houle@mrnf.gouv.qc.ca
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