Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists Propose Thinning Sierra Forests to Enhance Water Runoff

Runoff from the Sierra Nevada, a critical source of California’s water supply, could be enhanced by thinning forests to historical conditions, according to a report from a team of scientists with the University of California, Merced, UC Berkeley and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The team proposes to test the hypothesis that forest-management strategies that use thinning to reduce fire risk and maintain the historical mix can also increase water yield and extend the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

The scientists suggest that by selectively reducing the number of trees — which use large amounts of the water received through precipitation — the amount of water that is released from the forest as runoff could increase. This enhanced runoff could make things easier for farmers and water managers statewide.

As part of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project (SWEEP), the scientists plan to reduce forest density in test areas and examine the impacts on water runoff, forest health and other ecosystem services, and provide a template for broader forest management in the Sierra Nevada.

The thinning of forests, which are much denser now than in past centuries, is already a common practice to reduce the risk of wildfires. The scientists also believe thinning can be done in ways that enhance the forests’ overall ecological health.

“It is critical to test these thinning prescriptions in well-controlled, well-monitored experimental areas to evaluate and verify the effects before applying them statewide,” said lead author Roger Bales, a UC Merced professor and director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “Reductions in forest density to enhance runoff have been attempted in past experiments, but never over a sustained period of time, and never under the conditions that currently exist in the Sierra Nevada.”

California’s water supply has been diminished by drought in recent years, and climate change is only exacerbating the problem, the researchers said. Warmer temperatures mean more rain and less snow, which leads to runoff that comes earlier in the year. Warming can also lengthen the growing season for trees and other plants, reducing runoff, and the warmer, drier conditions have been shown to increase the frequency and severity of wildfires.

Reducing forest density can help counter the effects of climate warming on runoff, they said, in addition to enhancing the runoff directly.

“Climate change is having and will have direct effects on the water supply and storage capacity of the Sierra Nevada forests,” said UC Berkeley Professor John Battles, one of the researchers on the project. “Management with an eye toward the water balance provides one potentially important mitigation tool.”

Other researchers on the project include Yihsu Chen, Martha H. Conklin and Philip Saksa of UC Merced; Kevin L. O’Hara and William Stewart of UC Berkeley; and Eric Holst of the Environmental Defense Fund.

UC Merced opened Sept. 5, 2005, as the 10th campus in the University of California system and the first American research university of the 21st century. The campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping out at about 25,000 students within 30 years.

James Leonard | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>