Biophysical and hydrological effects of future climate change including trends in CO2, in the St. Joseph River watershed, Eastern Corn Belt

Ruoyu Wang, Laura C. Bowling, Keith A. Cherkauer, Raj Cibin, Younggu Her, Indrajeet Chaubey

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38 Scopus citations


Future climate change has the potential to significantly impact crop growth, both directly due to CO2 enhancement and indirectly, through temperature and moisture impacts. This work investigates the biophysical and hydrological effects of future climate change, including trends in CO2, in the St. Joseph River watershed, Eastern Corn Belt. In this study, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was first modified to take dynamic CO2 concentration as input. A regional crop leaf development curve from Landsat TM imagery was also used to adjust model performance in corn leaf area development for the historical period. A multi-objective calibration strategy was employed to ensure acceptable simulation of streamflow, seasonal crop growth and interannual crop yield simultaneously. The model was then driven by future climate change and CO2 data from three Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs), which are GFDL-CM2.1.1, NCAR-PCM1.3, and UKMO-HADCM3.1, under three Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES), including B1, A1 B and A2 to investigate crop and streamflow response in two future periods: the near future (2021–2050) and the far future (2061–2090). The St. Joseph River watershed is expected to experience more winter and spring precipitation, but slightly decreasing summer precipitation. Due to increasing temperature and decreasing summer moisture, more drought stress is predicted. Both annual total aeration and drought stress are projected to be more variable in both future periods. Although future CO2 enhancement will benefit the crop growth and final yield by improving radiation use efficiency (RUE) and reducing drought stresses, simulated corn yield still decreased by 6% in the near future period, and 16% in the far future period due to the combined effect of both climate change and CO2 enhancement. Streamflow redistribution is also predicted in the future. Stream discharge is projected to increase for the whole flow range in the near future period. For the far future period, high flows are expected to decrease, while low flows are expected to increase, indicating more hydrologic drought and flood events in the St. Joseph River watershed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-296
Number of pages17
JournalAgricultural Water Management
StatePublished - Jan 31 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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