Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)

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The most intensively studied research area of the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory is the Providence Creek headwaters area, located along a tributary to the North Fork of the Kings River in the Sierra National Forest. Most of the long-term observations by SSCZO are located at this site. The P300 area includes forested hillslopes, some glacial erratics and areas of exposed bedrock, multiple meadows, and creeks draining the catchment.

4.6 km2   Area

Critical Zone Tree 1 at P301 within the Providence Creek Headwater Catchments field area. © Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

Areas within Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)

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Setting & Research
Overview Maps
Dynamic Map
Data
Photos
  • Setting & Research

    This site is part of an elevational transect that increases in altitude from west to east.

    Sites include San Joaquin Experimental Range, Soaproot Saddle, Providence Creek Headwater Catchments, and Short Hair Creek, spanning a 2300-m elevation range that captures gradients in climate, regolith, soils, and vegetation. Along this transect, bedrock lithology is generally constant (intrusive felsic plutons). Ecosystems range from low-elevation oak savannah (rain-dominated) to high-elevation subalpine forest (snow-dominated). A series of eddy-covariance gas flux towers are installed at these sites (see below). Examples of transect-length work include soil and regolith depth, chemistry, and moisture characterizations; vegetation surveys; forest water-balance research; and wind-blown dust geochemistry and microbiology studies.


    SSCZO & KREW

    The Providence Creek Headwater Catchments are part of the Kings River Experimental Watersheds (KREW) program which is run by scientists from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station. Sub-catchments of Providence Creek have undergone various management treatments and KREW is studying the effects of these treatments such as impacts on sediment production, stream water quantity and quality, and forest health. Providence is the primary SSCZO--KREW research area. For an overview of SSCZO and KREW measurement programs, see O'Geen et al. (2018).


    Climate, Landscape, Soils, Vegetation

    From O'Geen et al., 2018:

    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments represents a rain-snow mixed-conifer forest site. Mean Annual Temperature: 8°C. Mean Annual Precipitation: 1015 mm yr−1.

    Nested within the 4.6 km2 Providence Creek catchment (P300) are three subcatchments: P301, P303, and P304. Providence Creek is a tributary to the North Fork of the Kings River.

    Three main soil series are mapped in the Providence catchments: Gerle (coarse-loamy, mixed, superactive, frigid Humic Dystroxerepts) and Cagwin (mixed, frigid Dystric Xeropsamments) are found at higher elevations (1800–2400 m), and Shaver (coarse-loamy, mixed, superactive, mesic Humic Dystroxerepts) occurs at 1750 to 1900 m (Bales et al., 2011). Gerle and Cagwin have a frigid soil-temperature regime. Cagwin and Gerle series are classified as Dystric Xeropsamments and Humic Dystroxerepts, respectively. Cagwin tends to occur on erosive landscapes such as convex ridge tops, steep mountain slopes, and sparsely vegetated areas intermixed with rock outcrops. As a result, Cagwin is sandy with shallow and moderately deep phases and minimal horizon differentiation. Gerle series displays some initial stages of pedogenesis. It is very deep, well drained and formed in glacial till, glacial outwash, and alluvium derived primarily from granitic rocks. Shaver has a warmer (mesic) soil temperature regime compared with higher elevation sites. The profile shows initial stages of pedogenesis with sandy loam textures throughout and slight rubification and transformation of primary minerals.

    Vegetation community comprises largely mixed-coniferous forest (76 to 99%) with some mixed chaparral and barren land cover. Sierran mixed-conifer vegetation at the site consists largely of white fir [Abies concolor (Gord. & Glend.) Lindl. ex Hildebr.], ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi Balf.), California black oak, sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana Douglas), and incense cedar.

    For additional information on climate and vegetation, see also Goulden et al., 2012.

     


    Instrumentation

    Sensors and instruments installed within the Providence Creek headwaters are used principally to measure forest water fluxes. The primary catchment is designated P300 with multiple subcatchments contained within it (P301 through P304). Subcatchment P301 contains the majority of instrumentation, with meteorological and stream-gauging stations also installed in other subcatchments. For additional technical information visit our Sensors & Field Instruments page or see O'Geen et al., 2018.

    Flux Tower

    An eddy covariance flux tower is located near the top of the P301 subcatchment.  The tower was installed in September 2008 at an elevation of 2015 m above sea level. This data can be analyzed to determine the physiological responses of the site (for example, how photosynthesis increases with light) and summed over a year to determine the carbon balance of a site (how much carbon it is gaining or losing).
     

    Critical Zone Tree

    Inside the P301 subcatchment, the SSCZO's established the first Critical Zone Tree in October 2008 at an elevation of 2020 meters.  This CZO tree is a White Fir (Abies concolor) that has been intensely instrumented with soil moisture, temperature, and matric potential sensors, snow depth, solar radiation, and sap flow sensors, resin nutrient collectors, tension lysimeters and time lapse photography.  Snowmelt patterns around the tree can be viewed in this 2008-2009 time lapse video.
     

    Meteorological Stations

    Field staff from the USDA Forest Service KREW project maintain two meteorological (met) stations located in the Providence Creek headwaters.  The upper elevation station (Upper Met) is located within the P303 subcatchment at an elevation of 1980 meters.  The lower elevation station (Upper Met) is located within the larger P300 catchment at an elevation of 1750 meters. Both met stations were installed in October 2002. 
     

    Water Balance Instrument Cluster

    Water balance instrument clusters are used to monitor snow depth, solar radiation, air temperature, soil water content, and soil temperature. The instruments capture forest-cover and landscape variability through node placements under tree canopy, at drip edge, and in open areas; and on North, South, and Flat slope aspects. Instrument cluster sites include the Upper Met Station and Lower Met Station, installed installed October 2007 (Flat aspect) and December 2007 (North and South aspects). Another water-balance transect was installed in December 2008 around the P301 meadow complex and the forested slopes adjacent to the meadows. In addition to the instrument clusters, the transect also includes monitoring wells, piezometers, soil sensors, and meteorological sensors, with elevations ranging between 1950 and 1990 m.

    Stream Gauging Stations

    Providence Creek gauging stations are located at the outlet of each research catchment.  The four catchments (P300, P301, P303 and P304) are instrumented in similar ways, outfitted with both high and low flow flumes, water depth sensors, and an ISCO sampler. These instrumented stream sites are operated and maintained by field staff from KREW and SSCZO. KREW installed P300 instruments in October 2009; P301, P303, and P304 instruments were installed in September 2008.  They are located at a mean elevation of 1740 meters.  
     

    Micromet Sensors

    The four research catchments in the Providence Creek headwaters have also been instrumented with HOBO microclimate sensors, measuring air temperature and relative humidity.  These micromet sensors were installed in summer 2011 and removed late 2013-summer 2015. Elevations ranged from 1500 and 2020 meters.  Sensor location varies in each catchment, selected based on existing soil moisture and sapflux sampling locations and elevation gradients. The collected microclimate data will increase the density of the distributed microclimate network which will allow us to better estimate the spatial variability of microclimate and eventually improve model predictions of snow, soil moisture, transpiration and streamflow.


    A critical research zone in the Sierra

    Video by Nick Strayer, Office of the President.
    University of California Research video


    The P301 eddy covariance flux tower stands near the top of the P301 subcatchment. © Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

     The Critical Zone Tree-1 is an intensively instrumented tree in P301. © Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

    © Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

    P300 flume © USDA Forest Service / Pacific Southwest Research Station

    Solar-powered water-balance instrumentation near the meadow complex at P301. Photo by Roger Wyan

  • Overview Maps

    Southern Sierra CZO overview map

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    Providence Creek headwaters map

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  • Dynamic Map

    To fully zoom into a small area, you may need to visit the "Map" button and uncheck "Terrain" view.

  • Data

    Critical Zone Tree 2 - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Electrical Conductivity, Matric Potential, Sap Flow (2010-2012)
    11 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology, Biology / Ecology    Peter Hartsough; Jan Hopmans

    Met Stations, Providence, Lower - Meteorology (2002-2011)
    19 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Climatology / Meteorology    Carolyn Husaker

    National - Climate, Flux Tower, Streamflow / Discharge - CUAHSI WDC web services (1968-2015)
    7 components    Boulder Creek Watershed, Christina River Basin, Jemez River Basin, Santa Catalina Mountains, El Verde Field Station, Northeastern Puerto Rico and the Luquillo Mountains, Rio Blanco, Rio Mameyes, Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation), Wolverton Basin (2230 - 2700 m elevation), Other instrumented sites    Climatology / Meteorology, Hydrology, Soil Science / Pedology    Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory; Catalina-Jemez Critical Zone Observatory; Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory; Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory; Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory; Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory

    National - LiDAR, Land Cover, GIS/Map Data - OpenTopography (2010-2017)
    18 components    Boulder Creek Watershed, Eel River Watershed, Jemez River Basin, Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, Northeastern Puerto Rico and the Luquillo Mountains, Sangamon River Basin, Clear Creek Watershed, Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory, Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Geomorphology, GIS / Remote Sensing, Hydrology, Biology / Ecology    National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping; Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory; Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory; University of Arizona; University of California Merced; Valles Caldera National Preserve; Bandelier National Monument; National Park Service; Jemez River Basin and Santa Catalina Mountains Critical Zone Observatory; Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory; Reynolds Creek CZO; Eel River CZO; Shale Hills CZO

    National - Streamflow / Discharge - USGS and USDA Data Resources (1985-2017)
    22 components    Boulder Creek Watershed, Santa Catalina Mountains, Jemez River Basin, Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, Northeastern Puerto Rico and the Luquillo Mountains, Clear Creek Watershed, Sangamon River Basin, Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory, Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology    USGS National Water Information System

    Providence - Streamflow / Discharge (2003-2010)
    22 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology    Carolyn Hunsaker

    Providence, Lower Met, North aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2018)
    31 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales; Matthew Meadows; Erin Stacy; Xiande Meng

    Providence, Lower Met, South aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2018)
    31 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales; Matthew Meadows; Erin Stacy; Xiande Meng

    Providence, Upper Met, Flat aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2018)
    33 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales; Matthew Meadows; Erin Stacy; Xiande Meng

    Southern Sierra Nevada - LiDAR, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), Snow Survey - Snow-on, Snow-off Flyover (2010)
    2 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation), Wolverton Basin (2230 - 2700 m elevation), Other instrumented sites    GIS / Remote Sensing, Hydrology    Qinghua Guo; Roger Bales; National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping

    Spatial Data - GIS/Map Data (2013-2018)
    9 components    Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation)    GIS / Remote Sensing    Stacy, E.

    Spatial Data - GIS/Map Data (2003-2011)
    11 components    Wolverton Basin (2230 - 2700 m elevation), Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation), Other instrumented sites    GIS / Remote Sensing    Meadows, M.; Stuemky, M.

  • Photos

    SSCZO - Flux Towers

    An eddy covariance flux tower is located near the top of the P301 watershed. Instruments collect data on temperature, relative humidity, and fluxes of carbon dioxide and water vapor to determine the physiological responses of the site (for example, how photosynthesis increases with light) and summed over a year to determine the carbon balance of a site (how much carbon it is gaining or losing). Three other flux towers have been instrumented at different elevations with the Sierras including the San Joaquin River, Soaproot, and Short Hair Creek.

    This west-east transect spans elevation gradient from 400 m to 2700 m. The change in elevation is accompanied by a slight increase in precipitation, but the main change is a shift from rain-dominated precipitation to snow-dominated precipitation. The climatic shift plays out in other ways as well. At lower elevations, high temperatures and low water availability limit evapotranspiration by vegetation. Meanwhile, forest activity (evapotranspiration) at higher elevations is limited by cold winter temperatures. There is a sweet spot at middle elevations of yera-round evapotranspiration and forest activity.

    Photo galleries of each flux tower are available: San Joaquin Experimental Range;  Soaproot SaddleProvidence subcatchment P301; and Short Hair Creek.

    SSCZO - Critical Zone Trees

    The primary Critical Zone Tree in the Southern Sierra CZO is a White Fir (Abies concolor) that has been intensely instrumented with soil moisture, temperature, and matric potential sensors, snow depth, solar radiation, and sap flow sensors, resin nutrient collectors, tension lysimeters and time lapse photography.  The Southern Sierra CZO currently has three instrumented trees.

    A photo gallery of the Critical Zone Trees can be found here.

    SSCZO - Water Balance Transect

    Within the headwaters of the P301 catchment is a series of montane meadows. The P301 water balance transect is comprised of monitoring wells, piezometers, soil sensors, and meteorological sensors.

    A photo gallery of the P301 water balance transect can be found here.

    SSCZO - Meteorological Stations

    The Providence Creek upper meteorological station is located in a high elevation spot of the Providence Creek study area. Collocated at this site are three water balance instrument clusters to monitor snow depth, solar radiation, air temperature, soil water content, and soil temperature. The other meteorological station is located in a low elevation spot within the P300 catchment.  Instrumentation is similar to the upper elevation site.  

    A photo gallery of the Upper Met Station can be found here.

    A photo gallery of the Lower Met Station can be found here.

    SSCZO - Snowmelt Plots

    Prototype snowmelt plots were installed in Spring 2009. Additional snowmelt plot studies were conducted in WY2010-2011.

    A photo gallery of the snowmelt plots can be found here.

    SSCZO - Instruments

    Hundreds of instruments and sensors have been deployed in the primary SSCZO research site of the Providence Creek watershed as well as in Wolverton basin.  Additional SSCZO flux towers and instruments have also been installed at the San Joaquin Experimental Range, Soaproot Saddle, and Short Hair Creek.

    Explore more photos of the intstuments and sensors used by SSCZO.

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Geology
  • Geology

    Quad: Huntington Lake
    Dinkey Creek Granodiorite (Kdc, formerly Granodiorite of Dinkey Creek)