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Water 2013, 5(2), 819-833; doi:10.3390/w5020819

On the Vulnerability of Water Limited Ecosystems to Climate Change

1,*  and 2
1 School of Engineering, University of Basilicata, via dell'Ateneo Lucano, 10, Potenza 85100, Italy 2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, E-Quad Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 April 2013 / Revised: 6 June 2013 / Accepted: 13 June 2013 / Published: 21 June 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecological Watershed Management)
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Society is facing growing environmental problems that require new research efforts to understand the way ecosystems operate and survive, and their mutual relationships with the hydrologic cycle. In this respect, ecohydrology suggests a renewed interdisciplinary approach that aims to provide a better comprehension of the effects of climatic changes on terrestrial ecosystems. With this aim, a coupled hydrological/ecological model is adopted to describe simultaneously vegetation pattern evolution and hydrological water budget at the basin scale using as test site the Upper Rio Salado basin (Sevilleta, NM, USA). The hydrological analyses have been carried out using a recently formulated framework for the water balance at the daily level linked with a spatial model for the description of the spatial organization of vegetation. This enables quantitatively assessing the effects on soil water availability on future climatic scenarios. Results highlighted that the relationship between climatic forcing (water availability) and vegetation patterns is strongly non-linear. This implies, under some specific conditions which depend on the ecosystem characteristics, small changes in climatic conditions may produce significant transformation of the vegetation patterns.
Keywords: vegetation patterns; cellular automata model; vegetation water stress; landscape metrics vegetation patterns; cellular automata model; vegetation water stress; landscape metrics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Manfreda, S.; Caylor, K.K. On the Vulnerability of Water Limited Ecosystems to Climate Change. Water 2013, 5, 819-833.

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