Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #221897

Title: Vegetation and topography effects on snowcover energetics in mountain catchments

item Marks, Daniel

Submitted to: World Wide Web
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2007
Publication Date: 12/8/2007
Citation: Marks, D.G. 2007. Vegetation and topography effects on snowcover energetics in mountain catchments. Invited presenation at the Second Annual IP3 Workshop, University of Waterloo, Canada, November 7-10,2007. (Presentation can be viewed at the above web site.)

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Mountainous regions in Western North America are snow-dominated with little or no summer precipitation. Wind and topographic structure control snow deposition, causing tremendous spatial heterogeneity in the distribution of the snowcover and the delivery of melt water across mountain catchments. This in turn leads to heterogeneity in vegetation cover where some areas within these catchments can sustain forest development, while others have only limited vegetation cover. Snow is scoured from exposed areas and deposited in either large drifts that develop in the lee of exposed ridges, or in forested areas that develop just below the drift zones. Forest structure alters energetics by reducing wind, increasing shading and slowing the melt process. In general forested areas in mountain catchments capture and store more snow than open or exposed areas, shade and protect that snow from solar and sensible energy, and delay snowmelt to late spring or even early summer, providing moisture for vegetation, streamflow and further forest development. Snow deposition, meteorological parameters and turbulent fluxes measured at open and exposed sites illustrate Open, exposed areas of mountain catchments catch less snow, and that snow melts earlier than in forested areas. Once a forest stand is established in a mountain catchment, the symbiotic relationship between the forest and snow deposition allows sustained forest growth. This relationship is, however, very sensitive to minor changes in climate conditions. Small changes in precipitation and temperature can alter the delivery of water to the system. To better manage forest and water resources in mountain regions, it is important to understand the coupling between forest structure, climate, and snowcover.