Suburban Forest Change and Vegetation Water Dynamics in Atlanta, USA

By Giraldo, Mario A.; Jackson, Paula et al. | Southeastern Geographer, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Suburban Forest Change and Vegetation Water Dynamics in Atlanta, USA


Giraldo, Mario A., Jackson, Paula, Van-Horne, Wayne, Southeastern Geographer


In the suburban area of northwestern Atlanta, this project tests the hypothesis that tree species composition affects the hydrological response of forest patches and therefore should be considered when assessing the effect of land cover change in the water cycle of suburban areas. In a typical mixed forest fragment a diverse canopy with a rich tree species composition of several deciduous and evergreen tree species was found. The results show a relationship of more than 2:1 water flow under different soil moisture levels, for the broadleaf deciduous (Uquidambar styraciflua L.) compared to the evergreen pine tree species (Pinus taeda L.j. The land cover change analysis for the lower Etowah watershed and five counties of northwestern Atlanta from 1992 to 2007 indicates forest cover loss, disturbance within the forest areas, changes from evergreen forest into mixed forest, and localized process of transition from forest towards urbanization. Overall, this research suggests that the water cycle in northern Atlanta may be affected by forest cover decrease, and by changes in the species composition of the forest fragment towards mixed forest.

En el area suburbana del noroeste de Atlanta, este proyecto pone a prueba la hipotesis de que la composicion de especies arboreas afecta la respuesta hidrologica de los parches forestales y por lo tanto, debe considerarse al evaluar el efecto del cambio de la cubierta de tierra en el ciclo de agua de las zonas suburbanas. En un tipico fragmento de bosque mixto se encontro una diversa cubierta forestal con una rica composicion de especies de arboles caducifolios y perennes. Los resultados muestran una relacion de mas de 2:1 del flujo de agua para los arboles caducifolios (Liquidambar styraciflua L.j que para las especies de pinos perennes (Pinus taeda L.j bajo diferentes niveles de humedad del suelo. El analisis del cambio de la cubierta de tierra en la cuenca baja Etowah y cinco condados del noroeste de Atlanta entre 1992 y 2007 indica una perdida de cubierta forestal, un desajuste dentro de las areas forestales, cambios de bosque perenne a bosque mixto y un proceso localizado de transicion de bosque a urbanizacion. En general, esta investigacion sugiere que el ciclo del agua en el norte de Atlanta puede verse afectado por la disminucion de la cubierta forestal y por los cambios en la composicion de especies del fragmento forestal hacia un bosque mixto.

KEY WORDS: land cover change, Atlanta, forest fragments, urban, hydrology

PALABRAS CLAVE: cambio de cubierta de tierra, Atlanta, fragmentos forestales, urbano, hidrologia

INTRODUCTION

Cities create a state of disequilibrium in the landscape; they generate a local gradient of disturbance and are considered one of the most homogenizing human activities in the physical environment (Mckinney 2006). Urban growth is expected to affect the dynamics of local ecosystems by modifying the hydrogeology of the landscape, introducing nonnative species, altering nutrient cycle, changing local atmospheric conditions and affecting forest health (Zipperer 2002; Wear and Greis 2010). At the regional scale, urban infrastructure creates a complex mosaic of land uses where high spatial and temporal variation of hydrological processes is expected to occur. In comparison with other land uses, forested areas provide quantity and quality of fresh water for human consumption and as such are becoming critical resources for a city's long-term sustainability (Neary et al. 2009). As urban growth continues, remaining forest fragments, especially those located at the headwaters and in riparian zones become refugees of native animal and plant species (Barrett and Guyer 2008; Burton et al. 2009), and hence are considered priority areas for conservation for the city and the region (Dawson 1995).

In the southeastern U.S.A., climate and vegetation are considered to play a larger role in the water budget with a strong effect of forest cover on regional evapotranspiration (Lu et al. …

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