Sensitivity of stream flow and water table depth to potential climatic variability in a coastal forested watershed
A physically based distributed hydrological model, MIKE SHE, was used to evaluate the effects of altered temperature and precipitation regimes on the streamflow and water table in a forested watershed on the southeastern Atlantic coastal plain. The model calibration and validation against both streamflow and water table depth showed that the MIKE SHE was applicable for predicting the streamflow and water table dynamics for this watershed with an acceptable model efficiency (E > 0.5 for daily streamflow and >0.75 for monthly streamflow). The simulation results from changing temperature and precipitation scenarios indicate that climate change influences both streamflow and water table in the forested watershed. Compared to current climate conditions, the annual average streamflow increased or decreased by 2.4% with one percentage increase or decrease in precipitation; a quadratic polynomial relationship between changes in water table depth (cm) and precipitation (%) was found. The annual average water table depth and annual average streamflow linearly decreased with an increase in temperature within the range of temperature change scenarios (0-6°C). The simulation results from the potential climate change scenarios indicate that future climate change will substantially impact the hydrological regime of upland and wetland forests on the coastal plain with corresponding implications to altered ecosystem functions that are dependent on water.