Predicting response of fuel load to future changes in climate and atmospheric composition in the Southern United States.
The model projected ecosystem carbon dynamics were incorporated into the default (contemporary) fuel load map developed by FCCS (Fuel Characteristic Classification System) to estimate the dynamics of fuel load in the Southern United States in response to projected changes in climate and atmosphere (CO2 and nitrogen deposition) from 2002 to 2050. The study results indicated that in 2002 the total fuel load of the Southern United States was about 1.15 P g (1P=1015), which will decrease to 1.11 P g in 2050. The declination of fuel load is mainly due to the climate change, especially the reduced precipitation in 2050, while the effects of elevated CO2 and nitrogen deposition will increase fuel load. Interactions among all factors will result in 1% reduction in the fuel load in 2050. In response to the spatial heterogeneity in environmental changes, the dynamics of fuel load from 2002 to 2050 vary stronglyamongthe study states. The declined precipitation in the northern inland of the study region may lead to 20% fuel load reduction in Tennessee and Kentucky by the year of 2050, while the elevated precipitation and decreased daily mean temperature in the coastal states, especially in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, may result in fuel load accumulation. The temporal–spatial variation of the fuel load may be overestimated since the adjustments of forest management regime in response to climate change were not considered in current study.