Modeling sediment accumulation in North American playa wetlands in response to climate change, 1940-2100

Climatic Change
By:  and 



Playa wetlands on the west-central Great Plains of North America are vulnerable to sediment infilling from upland agriculture, putting at risk several important ecosystem services as well as essential habitats and food resources of diverse wetland-dependent biota. Climate predictions for this semi-arid area indicate reduced precipitation which may alter rates of erosion, runoff, and sedimentation of playas. We forecasted erosion rates, sediment depths, and resultant playa wetland depths across the west-central Great Plains and examined the relative roles of land use context and projected changes in precipitation in the sedimentation process. We estimated erosion with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) using historic values and downscaled precipitation predictions from three general circulation models and three emissions scenarios. We calibrated RUSLE results using field sediment measurements. RUSLE is appealing for regional scale modeling because it uses climate forecasts with monthly resolution and other widely available values including soil texture, slope and land use. Sediment accumulation rates will continue near historic levels through 2070 and will be sufficient to cause most playas (if not already filled) to fill with sediment within the next 100 years in the absence of mitigation. Land use surrounding the playa, whether grassland or tilled cropland, is more influential in sediment accumulation than climate-driven precipitation change.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling sediment accumulation in North American playa wetlands in response to climate change, 1940-2100
Series title Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-012-0557-7
Volume 117
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 15 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Climatic Change
First page 69
Last page 83
Time Range Start 1940-01-01
Time Range End 2100-12-31
Country United States
State Colorado;Kansas;Nebraska;New Mexico;Oklahoma;Texas
Other Geospatial West-central Great Plains
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