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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » SWRC » Research » Research Project #442548

Research Project: Ecological Forest Management Snow Monitoring Demonstration Site

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Project Number: 2022-13610-013-021-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 20, 2022
End Date: Sep 30, 2024

ARS will add automated remote snow and soil moisture monitoring (Snowtography) to a forest restoration site in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) to augment an existing network of 6 sites in the Lower Colorado River Basin (LCRB). Additionally, we will complete 2 scientific studies that help forest practitioners gain a better understanding of how changes to forest structure via ecological restoration affect soil moisture availability, streamflow and groundwater recharge across a range of elevation and forest types in the Colorado River Basin. These studies will leverage the monitoring network to advance knowledge on how forest restoration effects vary in high-elevation, colder, snowmelt-dominated UCRB versus lower elevation, warmer and mixed rain-snow LCRB. Details of ARS Snowtography may be found here:

ARS will coordinate with the Dolores Watershed Resilient Forest Collaborative and/or San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership to install two new Snowtography stations for remote automated monitoring of snow and soil moisture to assess impacts of forest management activities. Details of ARS Snowtography may be found here: Each station will collect daily measurements at ~40 locations arranged across gradients of forest structure at a given site. ARS will conduct site surveys and equipment installation with the TNC Cooperator. Site maintenance will be conducted by undergraduate students at Fort Lewis College, Durango. Together with an existing station installed in the Dolores Watershed in 2021, the new stations will form a snow monitoring elevation gradient spanning the major regional forest types and snow regimes. An ARS postdoc (GS 11 step 3) will conduct modeling to assess the impacts of forest structure changes on net water inputs to soil. Field datasets for modeling will include the two new stations and ~20 site-years of data from a network of six existing Snowtography stations already established in Arizona and Colorado. Major modeling objectives include assessing across gradients of forest type, forest structure and climate: 1) the amount and timing of daily net water inputs to soils; 2) the location, depth, duration and intensity of soil moisture drought for remaining trees; 3) the amount and timing of water draining beyond the monitored root zone to supply groundwater recharge and/or streamflow. Model tools include Snow17, SnowPALM, and HYDRUS.