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Ge Sun

Ge Sun
Research Hydrologist and Project Leader
Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
P.O. Box 12254
3041 East Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2254
United States
Current Research
  • Modeling the potential effects of climate change, landuse change, population growth, and urbanization on water supply and demand in the conterminous United States (CONUS)
  • Water use (Evapotranspiration) of southern forests 
  • Measuring and modeling carbon and water fluxes
  • Hydrological effects of longleaf pine restoration in the southern U.S.
  • Effects of precribed burning on mercuy mobility
  • Hydrologic effects of forest conversion from hardwood forests to pine plantations 
Past Research
I have worked on various forest hydrology projects in different geophysical settings around the world to understand natural and human impacts on watershed water balances and processes. Models (FLATWOODS, PnET, MIKE SHE, WaSSI), remote sensing, and GIS data have been used to synthesize station-based information toward generalizing and projecting hydrological consequences from disturbances at broader scales and answer practical 'what if' management questions.
Research Interest
  • Effects of climate change and land management on water quantity and quality, and water supply and demand at a regional scale 
  • Application of computer simulation models, GIS, and remote sensing in regional hydrology
  • Evapotranspiration and ecosystem productivity modeling  
  • Effects of urbanization on watershed hydrology and climate  
Why This Research Is Important

Water is the most fundamental component of life. Forests and water are intimately linked at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Global changes in climate and land use have profound impacts on the quantity, quality, and timing of water on Earth. Understanding forest-water-climate-people interactions is critical for sustainable management and conservation of natural resources, and adaptationto environmental change in the 21st century.

  • University of Florida, Ph.D., Forest Hydrology and Watershed Management, 1995
  • Beijing Forestry University, M.S., Forest Hydrology, 1988
  • Beijing Forestry University, B.S., Soil and Water Conservation, 1985
Awards & Recognition
  • Icko Iben Multidisciplinary Communications Award from American Water Resources Association, 2021
    Established in 1971, this award recognizes persons who have made outstanding contributions in promoting communication among the various disciplines concerned with water resources issues.
  • US Forest Service Research & Development Deputy Chief Award's Distingushed Science Award , 2017
    Sustained productivity and leadership in forest hydrology research
  • US Forest Service Chief's Honor Award , 2017
    Applying Knowledge Globally; Forests and Water in a Changing Environment
  • Source Water Protection from North Carolina Source Water Collaborative (Team award), 2017
    for Defining and Understanding How Forests Protect Watersheds and Source Water.
  • Southern Research Station Director's Distinguished Science Award , 2016
    Leadership and productivity in forest hydrology research
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 2016
    An author of "Understanding the Impacts of Drought on the Nation's Forest and Grasslands: Providing a Scientific Foundation for Effective Management Responses", which Received a 2016 Chief's Award for the Category of Sustaining Forests and Grasslands
  • Fellow of American Water Resources Association, 2015
    For outstanding serve to AWRA and an eminent record in forest water resources science and technology.
  • USFS Southern Research Station Director's Global Stewardship Award , 2009
    For global applications of hydrological science and technology
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Burning forests can impact water supplies

Year: 2017
The number of wildland fires and burned areas in the U.S. is on the rise as a result of a warming climate, drought, and increasing human ignitions. Although forests and rangelands provide more than half of U.S. water supplies, the long-term impacts of both wildland and prescribed fire on water suppl...

International collaborators develop easy-to-use formulas for water and carbon accounting

Year: 2017
Ecosystem water use is closely coupled with ecosystem productivity, water availability, and water supplies, but accurate water use accounting remains challenging because of model deficiencies or difficulty of model use in practice. Forest Service researchers combined global water use or evapotranspi...

Southern forested wetlands are projected to become drier in the future

Year: 2018
Extensive southern forested wetlands provide important ecosystem services. A study of five typical forested wetlands across the Southeast suggests that these wetlands will likely become drier or may even disappear by the end of this century under severe climate change scenarios. This information can...

Impacts of wildland fires on U.S. freshwater resources are variable

Year: 2018
Burning forests alters watershed hydrological cycles by modifying soil and forest cover properties. Researchers found that fires with moderate or high burn severity contributed most to increased river flows, while prescribed fires had little effect on water yield for large basins. Climate variabilit...

Quantifying the Role of State and Private Forest Lands in Providing Surface Drinking Water Supply for the Southern U.S.

Year: 2020
Forested land owned by states or private and family owners makes up about 44 % of the total land area in the South. This study highlights the connection between state and private forests (SPF) and the drinking water supply in the South. The study reveals that SPF lands contributed more than 44 %of t...

Forests to Faucets: Visualizing Forests’ Role in Supplying Drinking Water Across the U.S.

Year: 2020
Forests provide drinking water and protect drinking water supplies. The USDA Forest Service's 'Forest to Faucets' program is a unique tool for understanding and visualizing this ecosystem service, as well as the stressors that threaten it. This new, user-friendly tool integrates maps, hydrologic mod...

Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services: water, carbon, and biodiversity

Year: 2010
SRS is enhancing one of its models that examines the potential impacts of climate change, land use, and population changes on water supplies. The researchers are building this integrated, water-centered modeling on previous water supply and demand research that resulted in a Water Supply Stress Inde...

Tools to help international conservation agencies make sound decisions

Year: 2011
Researchers with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC) applied models they developed with partners to measure water supply stress in relation to carbon and biodiversity and to evaluate ecosystem services to several locations in Africa-Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda; Ruaha...

Fertilized Pines Use Water More Efficiently But May Suffer Worse in Droughts

Year: 2015
Fertilized loblolly pine trees produce more wood than their unfertilized counterparts, even when less water was available, butthis may also indicate that fertilized pine plantations are more vulnerable to severe drought.

High Forest Productivity Often Comes at the Expense of Soil Carbon Storage

Year: 2015
Forest Service scientists and their research partners are studying the role of managed forests in regional carbon, water, and energy exchange to understand how managed forests contribute to land-atmosphere feedbacks and climate dynamics.