Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Declining Winter Snowpack May Not Dramatically Impact Upland Ecosystems

19.12.2011
Two studies by Boise State University geoscientists provide new information about how snowmelt is stored and used in mountain environments.

Global warming is reducing snowpacks across the western United States, with potentially far-reaching implications for downstream water resources. In the studies, Boise State researchers wanted to know how changing snowpacks will impact upland ecosystems in areas of the mountains that are not near streams.

The Boise State geoscientists found the benefit of winter snow accumulation to high-elevation ecosystems is limited by the soil’s ability to store water. While mountain snowpacks are important natural reservoirs extending spring and summer water delivery to downstream users and ecosystems, the study found that the coarse-grained, shallow soils can store only a fraction of the snowmelt into the summer when the water is needed. This means that declines in snowpack may have a minimal impact on summer water availability in these locations.

In a related study, researchers found a large difference in the capacity of the soil to store water on north-and south-facing slopes. The study found soils on north-facing slopes in a semi-arid mountain region in Idaho can hold up to 50 percent more water than soils on south-facing slopes. Because south-facing slopes dry out faster, the ability of vegetation to survive the dry summers is limited. The study also found that the more heavily vegetated north-facing slopes have the capacity to store more water because of finer-grained and deeper soils, which in turn produce drastically different soil water retention capacity. The researchers concluded that these differences are driven by various levels of solar radiation; the south-facing soils receive considerably more light and energy from the sun than their north-facing counterparts.

Researchers say these studies do not suggest that upland ecosystems will be less sensitive to climate change, but rather that changes to winter snowpack may not be the primary reason for the impact.

Both studies appear online in the journal Hydrological Processes.

“What is interesting about these studies is they suggest that the soils might be more sensitive to changes in precipitation timing rather than amount,” said studies’ coauthor Jim McNamara, professor of geosciences. “The limited ability of soils to store water from snowmelt highlights the potential importance of spring and early summer precipitation, and changes in spring precipitation may have a profound impact on upland water availability.”

The researchers took weather data and soil samples from nearly a dozen sites in the Dry Creek Watershed outside Boise at various times throughout a year. The study sites were located at four elevations ranging from 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet, with two sites on north and south-facing slopes at each specific elevation. Estimates of mean annual precipitation and mean annual air temperature were calculated for the elevation of each site and soil moisture sensors were installed at multiple depths.

The scientists found soil porosity, soil organic matter and silt content all were greater on the north-facing slopes and each contributed to higher water retention in the soil. These results, along with the observation that soils on north-facing slopes tend to be deeper, indicate that north-facing slopes in this region can store more water from the wet winter months into the dry summer.

Matt Pene | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.boisestate.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>