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Project ID: 13-3-01-21

Year: 2013

Date Started: 08/01/2013

Date Completed: 08/27/2015

Title: Effects of Fuel Treatments and Wildfire on Winter Snowpack Accumulation and Depletion

Project Proposal Abstract: Winter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California is an important ecological process that provides water storage and influences forest productivity and fire potential during the dry summer months. Forest canopy cover is known to influence rates of snowpack accumulation and depletion in opposing directions. Fuel reduction treatments are an important, widely used management tool in the Sierra Nevada. When properly implemented, these treatments are known to reduce forest canopy cover and understory fuels, and aim to restore pre-settlement forest structure and make forests more resilient to fire. However, little is known about the ways in which fuel treatments affect snowpack dynamics, and there is no published data about the effects of interactions between fuel treatments and wildfire on snowpack. We propose to extend an existing study of fuel treatment effects on ecological processes to explicitly measure changes in snowpack accumulation and depletion rates across fuel treatment boundaries, both at unburned sites and at sites that have burned in wildfires within the past seven years. The existing study design provides a factorial design for this extension: burned and unburned areas with and without previous fuel treatments. In the proposed study, we will continuously monitor duration of snowpack at 200 points across these 4 combinations of treatment and wildfire at 5 recent wildfire sites in the Sierra Nevada. We will take snowpack depth measurements at 600 points at these same sites, and relate this data to forest canopy closure, topography, and fuel moisture depletion during the snow-free season. We expect that if snowpack depletion rates drive snowpack duration, then fuel treatments will reduce snowpack duration in the absence of fire, but extend snowpack duration after wildfire, because of canopy retention relative to extensive canopy loss that occurred in high-severity burns in untreated forest. However, if snowpack accumulation rates drive snowpack duration, then we would expect the effects of fuel treatments to be the opposite of those described above. This work will have important implications for our understanding of the interaction between forest management, wildfire, and snowpack dynamics in montane forests of western North America.

Principal Investigator: Andrew M. Latimer

Agency/Organization: University of California-Davis

Branch or Dept: Department of Plant Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Andrew M. Latimer

University of California-Davis

Department of Plant Sciences

Budget Contact

Andrew M. Latimer

University of California-Davis

Department of Plant Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Hugh D. Safford

Forest Service

PSW-Univ of CA-Davis

Student Investigator

Jens T. Stevens

University of California-Davis

John Muir Institute of the Environment

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network










Project Deliverables

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("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

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