Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

11-17-2015

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Timothy

Advisor Middle Initial

O

Advisor Last Name

Randhir

Co-advisor Name

Paula

Co-advisor Last Name

Rees

Third Advisor Name

Allison

Third Advisor Last Name

Roy

Abstract

ABSTRACT

IMPACTS OF LAND COVER AND CLIMATE CHANGE ON WATER RESOURCES IN SUASCO RIVER WATERSHED

September 2015

AMMARA TALIB, BS., PUNJAB UNIVERSITY LAHORE

MS., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Directed by: Professor Tim Randhir

Hydrological balance and biogeochemical processes in watershed are significantly influenced by changes in land use land cover (LULC) and climate change. Those changes can influence interception, evapotranspiration (ET), infiltration, soil moisture, water balance and biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen and other elements at regional to global scales. The impacts of these hydrological disturbances are generally reflected in form of increasing runoff rate and volume, more intense and frequent floods, decreasing groundwater recharge and base flow, elevated levels of sediments and increase in concentration of nutrients in both streams and shallow groundwater. Water quality of Sudbury, Assabet and Concord (SuAsCo) watershed in Massachusetts is also compromised because of influx of runoff, sediments and nutrients. There is a crucial need to evaluate the synergistic effects of LULC change and climate change on the water quality and water quantity in a watershed system. A watershed simulation model is used to simulate hydrologic processes and water quality changes in sediment loads, total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP). The model is calibrated and validated with field-measured data. Climatic scenarios are represented by downscaled regional projections from Global Climate Model (GCM) models and regional built out scenarios of LULC are used to assess the impacts of projected LULC and climate change on water quality and water quantity. Simultaneous changes in LULC and climate significantly affect the water resources in the SuAsCo River watershed. Change in climate increased ET (4.7 %) because of high temperature, but independent change in land cover reduced ET (6.5%) because of less available vegetation. Combined change in land cover and climate reduced ET (2.1%) overall, which indicates that land cover change has significant impact on ET. Change in climate increased total run off (6%) and this increase is more significant as compared to 2.7 % increase in total runoff caused by land cover change. Change in land cover increased surface runoff more significantly (69.2%) than 7.9 % increase caused by climate change. Combined change in land cover and climate further increased the average storm peak volume (12.8 percent) because of high precipitation and impervious area in future. There is a potential for reducing runoff, sediments and nutrients loads by using conservation policies and adaptation strategies. This research provides valuable information about the dynamics of watershed system, as well as the complex processes that impair water resources.

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