In many seasonally snow-covered forests, the snowpack is the primary water resource. The snowpack also serves as an insulating layer over the soil, warming soil throughout the winter and preserving moisture conditions from the preceding fall. Therefore, the total amount of water in the snowpack as well as the timing and duration of the snow-covered season are likely to have a strong influence on forest productivity through the regulation of the biophysical environment. We investigated how interannual variation in the amount and timing of seasonal snow cover affect winter carbon efflux and growing season carbon uptake at the Niwot Ridge AmeriFlux site (NWT) in Colorado (3050m a.s.l.; 40˚N) and the Valles Caldera Mixed-Conifer AmeriFlux site (VC) in New Mexico (3003m a.s.l.; 36˚N). The tree species composition at NWT is dominated by Abies lasiocarpa, Picea engelmannii, and Pinus contorta. At VC, the dominant tree species are Pseudotsuga menziesii, Abies concolor, Picea pungens, Pinus strobiformis, Pinus flexilis, Pinus ponderosa, and Populus tremuloides. We used net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and climate data from 1999-2012 at NWT and 2007-2012 at VC to divide each year into the growing season, when NEE is negative, and the winter, when NEE is positive. Snow water equivalent (SWE), precipitation, and duration of snow cover data were obtained from USDA/NRCS SNOTEL sites near each forest. At both sites, the start of the growing season was strongly controlled by air temperature, but growing season NEE was not dependent on the length of the growing season. At NWT, total winter carbon efflux was strongly influenced by both the amount and duration of the snowpack, measured as SWE integrated over time. Years with higher integrated SWE had higher winter carbon efflux and also had warmer soil under the snowpack. These patterns were not seen at VC. However, peak SWE amount was positively correlated with growing season NEE at VC, but not at NWT. These results suggest that carbon cycling in seasonally snow-covered forests is responsive to interannual variation in winter precipitation, however, there is not a general relationship to explain the overall effect on annual NEE.
Chan A., Brooks P., Burns S., Litvak M., Blanken P., Bowling D. (2014): Ecohydrological and Biophysical Controls on Carbon Cycling in Two Seasonally Snow-covered Forests. Abstract B53A-0164 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec..
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.