Loading Publication...
close
Sep 2023

Forest density and snowpack stability regulate root zone water stress and percolation differently at two sites with contrasting ephemeral vs. stable seasonal snowpacks

Ravindra Dwivedi, Joel A. Biederman, Patrick D. Broxton, Kangsan Lee, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jessie K. Pearl
Arizona, Colorado River Basin, Western U.S.
Climate Change, Forest Restoration Benefits
Collaboration, USDA ARS
Forest
Abstract

Much of the western United States depends on high elevation snowpack in forested watersheds for water supply, wildlife habitat, and recreation in both adjacent and downstream communities. The forest-snow-water relationship is well studied in areas with stable – that is, cold – seasonal snowpacks, however much less is known about this relationship in the growing number of areas with ephemeral snowpacks. In this study, we evaluate how forest cover and climate regulate the seasonality of water inputs, soil moisture, root zone water stress, and percolation at contrasting seasonal vs. ephemeral snowpack sites, in Arizona, USA. We use a soil moisture model (Hydrus-1D) and three years of continuous soil moisture measurements at 6 sites distributed across gradients of forest canopy cover. Compared to the seasonal snowpack site, the ephemeral site has wetter soils during winters due to frequent mid-winter melt events, leading to greater annual percolation. However, earlier snowmelt at the ephemeral snowpack site also prolongs the duration of root zone water stress. At both sites, dense forest cover is associated with less percolation and longer duration of soil drought, due to increased transpiration. These effects are amplified during an abnormally dry winter. This study develops key steps towards using spatially distributed snowpack and soil moisture measurements to assess how changing climate and forest cover jointly regulate water availability for future ecosystems and downstream use.

Link to Publication

Links
 
(ALL RIGHTS GRANTED TNC) View of Escudilla Mountain. Fall colors heighten the natural beauty of forest and meadow in the White Mountains, one of Arizona’s last wide-open spaces and where TNC works to protect the headwaters of three major Arizona rivers: the Salt, Gila, and Little Colorado and their greenbelts – riparian habitats critical for wildlife and water quality – as well as restore healthy forests within the largest ponderosa pine community in the world, save rare and unique wildlife and plant species, and control non-native, invasive species, such as crayfish, Arizona. © Betsy D. Warner/TNC
Aerial view of the Parks West restoration site overseen by TNC. Taken March 16, 2020.
Conservancy staffers, Dale Turner and Amanda Rebore, helping to map the Sabn Pedro River in Arizona. They use a GPS unit to denote the end of the water flow on the LowerSan Pedro River. They hiked through the Conservancy’s San Pedro Preserve.

Our Approach to Science

The Nature Conservancy’s conservation science program in Arizona engages stakeholders and expertise in applied science and policy to develop new information, ideas, and tools that can help solve some of our most pressing challenges affecting people and nature

Explore Our Science

Future Forests

We are working with partners and stakeholders to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration for a healthy Arizona

Mapping the Status of River Streams

Wet/dry mapping provides a low-cost, river-wide snapshot of hydrologic conditions for rivers with interrupted perennial surface flows.

Our Science in Action

Explore Our Science

Sep 2023
Maps
BLM, NGO
Freshwater Assessment
Riparian-aquatic
San Pedro River
Dale Turner, Brooke Bushman, Lisa McCauley
San Pedro River Wet/Dry Map Animation
Every June groups of volunteers walk the entire 170 mile length of the San Pedro River and record where it is wet and where it is dry during the hottest, driest time of the year. Twenty years’ worth of data on summertime surface flows in the San Pedro River within the San Pedro Riparian National C[…]
Sep 2023
Papers
Arizona, Geo Region
Collaboration
Ecosystem, Forest
Forest Restoration Benefits, Topic
Jamie L Peeler, Lisa McCauley, Kerry L Metlen, Travis Woolley, Kimberley T Davis, Marcos D Robles, Ryan D Haugo, Karin L Riley, Philip E Higuera, Joseph E Fargione
Identifying opportunity hot spots for reducing the risk of wildfire-caused carbon loss in western US conifer forests
As both the climate and wildfire crises intensify and investments are made to dramatically increase the pace of forest restoration across dry forests in the western U.S. through the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, an understanding of where Nature-Based Solutions are the most optimal in lessening climate i[…]
Sep 2023
Papers
Arizona, Colorado River Basin, Western U.S.
Climate Change, Forest Restoration Benefits
Collaboration, USDA ARS
Forest
Ravindra Dwivedi, Joel A. Biederman, Patrick D. Broxton, Kangsan Lee, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jessie K. Pearl
Forest density and snowpack stability regulate root zone water stress and percolation differently at two sites with contrasting ephemeral vs. stable seasonal snowpacks
Much of the western United States depends on high elevation snowpack in forested watersheds for water supply, wildlife habitat, and recreation in both adjacent and downstream communities. The forest-snow-water relationship is well studied in areas with stable – that is, cold – seasonal s[…]