Item: A vegetation study concerning effects of branch characteristics on interception of falling snow
Title: A vegetation study concerning effects of branch characteristics on interception of falling snow
Proceedings: Proceedings of the 2006 International Snow Science Workshop, Telluride, Colorado
Authors: Erica David, Pinedale High School, PO Box 279, Pinedale, WY 82941, email@example.com
Abstract: What are effects of trees and shrubs on interception of snow? Interception of falling snow by conifer trees and sagebrush shrubs can increase loss of snow through exposure to sublimation, thus decreasing potential water supply. As many drought afflicted areas are predominantly vegetated by conifers and sagebrush, snow interception by these plants in various stages of drought and maturity is noteworthy. The project extended over two winters. During the first winter, conifer branches from two species, Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) and Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) were dried to varying wood moisture contents to simulate branch resistance in various drought stages. The force needed to bend the branches at subzero temperatures was measured, as the branch resistance affects snow retention and unloading. Retained intercepted snow is exposed to loss by sublimation, while unloaded snow is contributed to dense ground snowpack. Fir data supported all hypotheses, because as moisture content decreased, branch resistance increased, and sapwood temperature fluctuated less. Yet, the pine had mixed results, supporting differences between the genus’s. Drier, more resistant fir trees intercept and expose more snow to sublimation, while pines, more flexible when drier, unload more snow to be retained for water supply. The second winter’s research investigated interception of snow by sage (Artemisia tridentata) in various stages of maturity, and the force needed to bend branches at subzero temperatures. All sagebrush hypotheses were supported. As shrub maturity increased, branch resistance to bending increased, and percent of intercepted snow increased. T-tests showed that young sage (5-6 yrs) did not intercept significant amounts of snow; therefore sage kept at this maturity would provide maximum water conservation. These results will help scientists better understand snow interception and retention on conifer branches and sagebrush for better prediction of winter’s snow as water supply during drought and better planning of vegetation communities.
Keywords: vegetation, branch resistance, interception, sublimation, water conservation
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