During the last three decades, the southeastern United States have experienced tremendous population growth and resulting LULC changes, which increased the vulnerability of regional freshwater supply systems under climate change. The water supply in this region is mostly depending on surface water generation without major inter-basin transfers, which limits the flexibility in developing long- and short-term water management plans.
For example, recent drought experience in 2002 and 2007 indicates that even small changes drought severity and frequency will have major influence on water supply systems in Piedmont regions. In addition, freshwater yield is sensitive to the changes of forest extent and composition.
Southeastern US regions have reforested following declining timber harvest in southern Appalachians, agricultural abandonment in Piedmont, and intensive pine plantations in Coastal plains. This expanded forest cover has increased evapotranspiration, which can substantially reduce streamflow generation. Therefore, it is quite critical to inform decision-makers with an integrated assessment of water supply vulnerabilities to extreme hydrologic events to understand how human and natural systems respond and adjust to both ends under LULC and climate changes.
This project will synthesize research in hydrology, forest ecology, LULC, and water resources systems to explain and predict the future vulnerability and susceptibility of freshwater supply systems along the Mountain-Piedmont-Coastal Plain gradient under the climate change.