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Assessing the Potential Impact of Rising Production of Industrial Wood Pellets on Streamflow in the Presence of Projected Changes in Land Use and Climate: A Case Study from the Oconee River Basin in Georgia, United States

1
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
2
Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA 01603, USA
3
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, New York, NY 10278, USA
4
Department of Crop & Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(1), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11010142
Received: 22 September 2018 / Revised: 24 December 2018 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
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Abstract

This study examines the impact of projected land use changes in the context of growing production of industrial wood pellets coupled with expected changes in precipitation and temperature due to the changing climate on streamflow in a watershed located in the northeastern corner of the Oconee River Basin. We used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) for ascertaining any changes in streamflow over time. The developed model was calibrated over a seven-year period (2001–2007) and validated over another seven-year period (2008–2014). Any changes in streamflow were simulated for a combination of 10 land use and climate change cases, from 2015 to 2028, under the two scenarios of High and Low Demand for industrial wood pellets. Our results suggest that streamflow is relatively stable (<1% change) for land use and temperature-related cases relative to the base case of no change in land use and climate. However, changes in precipitation by ±10% lead to considerable changes (±25%) in streamflow relative to the base case. Based on our results, expected changes in precipitation due to the changing climate will determine any changes in the streamflow, rather than projected land use changes in the context of rising demand for industrial wood pellets for export purposes in the selected watershed, keeping land under urban areas as constant. This study contributes to our broader understanding of the sustainability of the transatlantic industrial wood pellet trade; however, we suggest undertaking similar research at a larger spatial scale over a longer time horizon for understanding trade-offs across carbon, biodiversity, and water impacts of the transatlantic industrial wood pellet trade. View Full-Text
Keywords: wood pellets; land use change; climate change; hydrological modeling; SWAT wood pellets; land use change; climate change; hydrological modeling; SWAT
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Shrestha, S.; Dwivedi, P.; McKay, S.K.; Radcliffe, D. Assessing the Potential Impact of Rising Production of Industrial Wood Pellets on Streamflow in the Presence of Projected Changes in Land Use and Climate: A Case Study from the Oconee River Basin in Georgia, United States. Water 2019, 11, 142.

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