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    Forests play a critical role in the hydrologic cycle, impacting the surface and groundwater dynamics of watersheds through transpiration, interception, shading, and modification of the atmospheric boundary layer. It is therefore critical that forest dynamics are adequately represented in watershed models, such as the widely applied Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). SWAT's default parameterization generally produces unrealistic forest growth predictions, which we address here through an improved representation of forest dynamics using species-specific re-parameterizations. We applied this methodology to the two dominant pine species in the southeastern U.S., loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and slash pine (Pinus elliotti). Specifically, we replaced unrealistic parameter values related to tree growth with physically meaningful parameters derived from publicly available remote-sensing products, field measurements, published literature, and expert knowledge. Outputs of the default and re-parameterized models were compared at four pine plantation sites across a range of management, soil, and climate conditions. Results were validated against MODIS-derived leaf area index (LAI) and evapotranspiration (ET), as well as field observations of total biomass. The re-parameterized model outperformed the default model in simulating LAI, biomass accumulation, and ET at all sites. The two parametrizations also resulted in substantially different mean annual water budgets for all sites, with reductions in water yield ranging from 13 to 45% under the new parameterization, highlighting the importance of properly parameterizing forest dynamics in watershed models. Importantly, our re-parameterization methodology does not require alteration to the SWAT code, allowing it to be readily adapted and applied in ongoing and future watershed modeling studies. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    Henrique Haas, Nathan G F Reaver, Ritesh Karki, Latif Kalin, Puneet Srivastava, David A Kaplan, Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke. Improving the representation of forests in hydrological models. The Science of the total environment. 2022 Mar 15;812:151425

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    PMID: 34748839

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