High-Peak Creeks, Forest Fires and Landscape Erosion: Could They Be Linked?

Research in Gordon Gulch, Colo., part of NSF's Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory. Credit: Suzanne Anderson, University of Colorado at Boulder

14 Jan 2013
News Source: National Science Foundation "Discoveries"

Colorado's Boulder Creek watershed: where rushing streams, raging blazes and the Rockies meet

Image: Research in Gordon Gulch, Colo., part of NSF's Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory. Credit: Suzanne Anderson, University of Colorado at Boulder [Click image to enlarge]

Fire and water. One scorches the other, only to be drowned in return. Could their effects on a watershed be related?

Scientists conducting research in Colorado's Rocky Mountains at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) are finding out.

Boulder Creek is a 31-mile-long stream draining the Rocky Mountains to the west of Boulder, Colo., as well as the city itself and surrounding plains.

At the Boulder Creek CZO, scientists see fire and water as being closely tied to the landscape--and to what's below that landscape in the subsurface environment.

"Ultimately, it's the landscape that controls where fires are most likely," says scientist Suzanne Anderson of the University of Colorado at Boulder, director of the Boulder Creek CZO.

"It all begins with the presence of the mountains," she says, "with the landscape beneath the forests and streams."

The Colorado Front Range, whose mountains Boulder Creek plummets down, are the stage upon which fire, water and forests are set...

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--  Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov


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