Event Title

Does Bark Beetle Disturbance Alter Forests' Protective Effects Against Snow Avalanches?

Presenter Information

Michaela Teich

Location

USU Eccles Conference Center

Event Website

https://www.restoringthewest.org/

Streaming Media

Abstract

Healthy, dense forests growing in avalanche terrain reduce the likelihood of avalanche release by inhibiting the formation of continuous weak layers and a homogenous snow stratigraphy. Associated with warming temperatures, bark beetle attacks have increased in higher elevations, which profoundly affects snowpack in mountain forests and may alter the effects of forests in protecting people, settlements and infrastructure against avalanches.

We examined the snowpack under canopies of Engelmann spruce forest stands in the Uinta Mountains in Utah using a snow micro penetrometer (SMP). Repeated SMP measurements were recorded in winters 2015 and 2016 in study plots beneath canopies of recently infested trees, trees 3+-years after spruce beetle infestation, a harvested forest stand, and a non-forested meadow. To quantify changes to snow stratigraphy at our study plots, we applied a new method to match and combine several SMP measurements.

Our results suggest that recently killed trees can still maintain avalanche protection, but the snowpack was consistently more homogeneous in the harvested stand despite small-diameter trees and woody debris being present.

As mountain forests become more prone to mass attacks associated with climate change, changes in snowpack properties needs to be considered for avalanche control, winter backcountry activities, and protection forest management.

Comments

I'm holding B.S (2004) and M.Sc. (2006) degrees in Forestry from Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, but already moved for my Master thesis project to the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, Switzerland. I continued working at the SLF as a student intern, research assistant, and later a PhD student in the research group “Mountain ecosystems”. I got my Dr. sc. degree from ETH Zurich, Switzerland in 2014 (Dissertation: "Snow avalanches in forested terrain"). I moved to Utah in January 2015 to start a Postdoc with Dr. Mike Jenkins on 13

“Investigating forest-snowpack interactions in relation to avalanche hazard“.

Currently, I’m working together with Dr. Jim Lutz and Dr. Sarah Null at USU. We are studying seasonal snowpack in different forest ecosystems including forests that have been recently disturbed by bark beetles and fire to quantify and model snowmelt runoff volume and timing from forest snowpack, which is important to manage water resources sustainably in a changing environment.

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Oct 18th, 11:15 AM Oct 18th, 11:30 AM

Does Bark Beetle Disturbance Alter Forests' Protective Effects Against Snow Avalanches?

USU Eccles Conference Center

Healthy, dense forests growing in avalanche terrain reduce the likelihood of avalanche release by inhibiting the formation of continuous weak layers and a homogenous snow stratigraphy. Associated with warming temperatures, bark beetle attacks have increased in higher elevations, which profoundly affects snowpack in mountain forests and may alter the effects of forests in protecting people, settlements and infrastructure against avalanches.

We examined the snowpack under canopies of Engelmann spruce forest stands in the Uinta Mountains in Utah using a snow micro penetrometer (SMP). Repeated SMP measurements were recorded in winters 2015 and 2016 in study plots beneath canopies of recently infested trees, trees 3+-years after spruce beetle infestation, a harvested forest stand, and a non-forested meadow. To quantify changes to snow stratigraphy at our study plots, we applied a new method to match and combine several SMP measurements.

Our results suggest that recently killed trees can still maintain avalanche protection, but the snowpack was consistently more homogeneous in the harvested stand despite small-diameter trees and woody debris being present.

As mountain forests become more prone to mass attacks associated with climate change, changes in snowpack properties needs to be considered for avalanche control, winter backcountry activities, and protection forest management.

https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/rtw/2017/Oct18/2