Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Elizabeth Carol Adair

Second Advisor

Asim Zia


Watershed regulation of water, carbon and nutrient dynamics support food, drinking water and human development. Projected climate changes and land use/cover change (LUCC) have been identified as drivers of watershed nutrient and hydrological processes and are likely to happen jointly in the future decades. Studying climate change and LUCC impacts on watersheds' streamflow and nutrients dynamics is therefore essential for future watershed management.

This research aimed to unveil how climate change and LUCC affect water and nutrient dynamics in the Missisquoi River watershed, Vermont. We used 12 scenarios of future climate data (2021 – 2050) generated by three GCMs (ccsm4, mri-cgcm3, and gfdl-esm2m) under four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). For LUCC, we used three different scenarios generated by the Interactive Land Use Transition Agent-Based Model (ILUTABM). The three LUCC scenarios were Business As Usual (BAU), Prefer Forest (proForest), and Prefer Agriculture (proAg). New land use maps were generated every 10 years for the period of 2021 – 2050. Combining each climate change and LUCC scenario resulted in 36 scenarios that were used to drive Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System (RHESSys) ecohydrological model.

In chapter 3, we used RHESSys to study streamflow. We found climate was the main driver for streamflow because climate change directly controlled the system water input. For streamflow, climate change scenarios had larger impacts than LUCC, different LUCCs under the same climate change scenario had similar annual flow patterns.

In chapter 4, we used RHESSys to study streamflow NO3-N and NH4-N load. Because fertilizer application is the major source for nitrogen export, LUCC had larger impacts; watersheds with more agricultural land had larger nitrogen loads.

In chapter 5, we developed RHESSys-P by coupling the DayCent phosphorus module with RHESSys to study climate change and LUCC impacts on Dissolved Phosphorus (DP) load. RHESSys-P was calibrated with observed DP data for 2002 – 2004 and validated with data for 2009 - 2010. In both calibration and validation periods, simulated DP basically captured patterns of observed DP. In the validation period, the R2 of simulated vs observed DP was 0.788. Future projection results indicated BAU and proForest annual loads were around 4.0 × 104 kg under all climate change scenarios; proAg annual loads increased from around 4.0 × 104 kg in 2021 to 1.6 × 105 kg in 2050 under all climate change scenarios. The results showed LUCC was the dominant factor for dissolved phosphorus loading.

Overall, our results suggest that, while climate drives streamflow, N and P fluxes are largely driven by land use and management decisions. To balance human development and environmental quality, BAU is a feasible future development strategy.



Number of Pages

171 p.

Available for download on Thursday, December 05, 2019