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US national forests and grasslands could yield less water in future climate

A warmer climate may lead to higher growth and productivity on U.S. national forests and grasslands, but university and U.S. Forest Service researchers say this could reduce quantities of freshwater flowing from most of these lands, even with increases in precipitation. Results were published in Scientific Reports.

“The national forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service represent only 9 percent of the U.S. land area, but play an important role in providing freshwater that contributes to about 14 percent of the national water supply,” says Kai Duan, a North Carolina State University postdoctoral researcher working with the Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the study’s lead author.

“A notable tradeoff between water yield and productivity is expected to intensify under higher greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change in the future, posing greater challenges to managing these lands and balancing these important ecosystem services.”

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