Supplementary tables and figures from Predicting combined effects of land use and climate change on river and stream salinity
journal contributionposted on 29.10.2018 by John R. Olson
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
Agricultural, industrial and urban development have all contributed to increased salinity in streams and rivers, but the likely effects of future development and climate change are unknown. I developed two empirical models to estimate how these combined effects might affect salinity by the end of this century (measured as electrical conductivity, EC). The first model predicts natural background from static (e.g. geology and soils) and dynamic (i.e. climate and vegetation) environmental factors and explained 78% of the variation in EC. I then compared the estimated background EC to current measurements at 2001 sites chosen probabilistically from all conterminous US streams. EC was more than 50% greater at 34% of these sites. The second model predicts deviation of EC from background as function of human land use and environmental factors and explained 60% of the variation in alteration from background. I then predicted the effects of climate and land use change on EC at end of the century by replacing dynamic variables with published projections of future conditions based on the A2 emissions scenario. By end of the century, the median EC is predicted to increase from 0.319 mS cm−1 to 0.524 mS cm−1 with over 50% of streams having greater than 50% increases in EC and 35% more than doubling their EC. Most of the change is related to increases in human land use, with climate change accounting for only 12% of the increase. In extreme cases, increased salinity may make water unsuitable for human use, but widespread moderate increases are likely a greater threat to stream ecosystems due to the elimination of low EC habitats.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Salt in freshwaters: causes, ecological consequences and future prospects’.