Quantifying the effects of vegetation structure on snow accumulation and ablation in mixed-conifer forests

P. D. Broxton, A. A. Harpold, J. A. Biederman, Peter A Troch, N. P. Molotch, Paul Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Snowmelt from forested, mountainous environments in the western United States is a critical regional water resource for streamflow and ecological productivity. These landscapes are undergoing rapid changes from the combined effects of forest fires, insect infestation and climate change. Numerous observational studies demonstrate that trees control snowpack accumulation and ablation over scales of tens of metres. Representing forest heterogeneity in models is important for understanding how changes in climate and vegetation cover affect the snowpack; yet, many snow models simplify a forest into two categories: canopy covered and non-canopy covered. We combine existing parameterizations of mass and energy fluxes within a new three-dimensional framework informed by Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM)-derived canopy maps and evaluated with ALSM-derived snow depth maps to explicitly simulate snow cover in relation to heterogeneous canopy. Model results capture much of the observed snow variability depicted in the 1-m ALSM-derived snow depth maps. Observations and modelled results identify open areas <15m from tree canopies as having more snow and more snow variability than areas >15m from tree canopies, and modelled results predict that open areas <15m from tree canopies have 30-40% more net snow water input than areas that are underneath tree canopies and 10-25% more net snow water input than areas that are >15m from tree canopies. Furthermore, 1-m simulations give higher estimates for net snow water input than coarser resolution simulations, mainly in areas with fewer trees. These results suggest the importance of explicitly representing canopy edges in snow models. Copyright

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1094
Number of pages22
JournalEcohydrology
Volume8
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Fingerprint

snow accumulation
vegetation structure
mixed forests
ablation
snow
coniferous forests
coniferous tree
canopy
snowpack
laser
climate change
Western United States
forest fires
snowmelt
observational studies
stream flow
forest fire
energy flux
vegetation cover
snow cover

Keywords

  • Forest structure
  • LiDAR
  • Snow distributions
  • Snow modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Ecology

Cite this

Quantifying the effects of vegetation structure on snow accumulation and ablation in mixed-conifer forests. / Broxton, P. D.; Harpold, A. A.; Biederman, J. A.; Troch, Peter A; Molotch, N. P.; Brooks, Paul.

In: Ecohydrology, Vol. 8, No. 6, 01.09.2015, p. 1073-1094.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Broxton, P. D. ; Harpold, A. A. ; Biederman, J. A. ; Troch, Peter A ; Molotch, N. P. ; Brooks, Paul. / Quantifying the effects of vegetation structure on snow accumulation and ablation in mixed-conifer forests. In: Ecohydrology. 2015 ; Vol. 8, No. 6. pp. 1073-1094.
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