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Mesoscale ecohydrological modelling to analyse regional effects of climate change

Hydrological processes and crop growth were simulated for the state of Brandenburg (Germany) using the hydrological/vegetation/water quality model SWIM, which can be applied for mesoscale river basins or regions. Hydrological validation was carried out for three mesoscale river basins in the area. The crop growth module was validated regionally for winter wheat, winter barley and maize. After that the analysis of climate change impacts on hydrology and crop growth was performed, using a transient 1.5 K scenario of climate change for Brandenburg and restricting the crop spectrum to the three above mentioned crops. According to the scenario, precipitation is expected to increase. The impact study was done comparing simulation results for two scenario periods 2022–2030 and 2042–2050 with those for a reference period 1981–1992. The atmospheric CO2 concentrations for the reference period and two scenario periods were set to 346, 406 and 436 ppm, respectively. Two different methods – an empirical one and a semi-mechanistic one – were used for adjustment of net photosynthesis to altered CO2. With warming, the model simulates an increase of evapotranspiration (+9.5%, +15.4%) and runoff (+7.0%, +17.2%). The crop yield was only slightly altered under the “climate change only” scenario (no CO2 fertilization effect) for barley and maize, and it was reduced for wheat (-6.2%, -10.3%). The impact of higher atmospheric CO2 compensated for climate-related wheat yield losses, and resulted in an increased yield both for barley and maize compared to the reference scenario. The simulated combined effect of climate change and elevated CO2 on crop yield was about 7% higher for the C3 crops when the CO2 and temperature interaction was ignored. The assumption that stomatal control of transpiration is taking place at the regional scale led to further increase in crop yield, which was larger for maize than for wheat and barley. The regional water balance was practically not affected by the partial stimulation of net photosynthesis due to higher CO2, while the introduction of stomatal control of regional transpiration reduced evapotranspiration and enlarged notably runoff and ground water recharge.

Krysanova, V.; Wechsung, F.; Becker, A.; Poschenrieder, W.; Graefe, J. 1999. Mesoscale ecohydrological modelling to analyse regional effects of climate change. Environmental Modeling and Assessment (4), 259-271.