U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Predicting and Planning for Chronic Climate-Driven Disturbances
Published: November 13, 2017
Posted: January 22, 2018

Preparing for long-term ecosystem imbalances could help society manage food, water, energy, and other critical resources.

The Science
Climate-driven disturbances such as heat, drought, wildfire, and insect outbreaks are increasing around the globe and are predicted to rapidly accelerate under future environmental conditions. These disturbances affect ecosystems’ abilities to provide food, water resources, energy, and other essential resources and services to society. In a study led by a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers developed a new theory regarding the effects of chronically increasing disturbances on critical ecosystem functions. They applied this theory to potential Earth system model advances that could help address chronic imbalances in ecosystem services.

The Impact
Predicting chronic imbalances in ecosystem services via Earth system models can improve planning to ensure continued provision of services to society. While researchers focused on how drought and rising temperature affect hydrologic services such as streamflow, water yields, and aquifer recharge, the new framework could include additional events that are expected to increase in likelihood, such as floods and storms. It also could extend to different kinds of ecosystems in which disturbances are expected to become more frequent.

Summary
Scientists reviewed evidence of disturbed ecosystem functions, specifically carbon storage and hydrologic services (e.g., water availability for power generation, drinking, and agriculture). From this data, they developed a theory underlying prolonged climate-driven disturbances and their increasing frequency, which could result in chronic imbalances of ecosystem services. Their theory suggested that warming and drought would lead to chronic mortality. With more frequent disturbances, biomass would disappear more rapidly and would not be regained. This imbalance would correspond with an increasing human population—and demand—for ecosystem services.

Researchers proposed that Earth system models address the possible impacts of chronic imbalances when simulating ecosystem services. For example, next-generation models of future ecosystems could account for new conditions and processes without relying on data based only on past behavior.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov

(PNNL Contact)
Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
nate.mcdowell@pnnl.gov

Funding
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research supported this research. NGM, KB, SM, KS, CX, and RSM acknowledge the support of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. NGM acknowledges the support of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s LDRD program. RMM acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation grant WSC-1204787.

Publication
N.G. McDowell, S.T. Michaletz, K.E. Bennett, K.C. Solander, C. Xu, R.M. Maxwell, C.D. Allen, R.S. Middleton, “Predicting Chronic Climate-Driven Disturbances and Their Mitigation,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33:15-27. 2018. [DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.10.002]

Related Links
Reference Link

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)