Subalpine mixed-conifer ecosystems are sensitive to a warming climate and are dependent on snowfall, which is expected to decrease under projected climate change. These changes in snowpack are likely to have important consequences for water and carbon cycling in these ecosystems and those downstream in the watersheds. Particularly within the semiarid southwest, such transitions to a drier and warmer environment will directly influence localized water and carbon dynamics and indirectly influence regional-scale levels of water availability and carbon sequestration. Therefore, in this study we monitored soil evaporation and respiration to evaluate how snow accumulation and duration of snow cover affected these effluxes. Our study took place within a mixed-conifer ecosystem within the Santa Catalina Mountains about 10 km north of Tucson, Arizona. Here, three understory time-lapse digital cameras have monitored snow cover within the footprint of an eddy covariance tower for nearly two years. Using these cameras, we identified locations with short and long snow duration. We then placed 6 soil collars (3 in short snow duration; 3 in long snow duration) within the field of view of each camera. Since July 2010, evaporation and soil respiration data have been collected regularly from these collars; soil temperature and soil moisture measurements were also collected. Our primary findings include: (1) evaporation fluxes do not vary drastically between long and short snow season sites, (2) evaporation fluxes for both short and long snow seasons have a strong relationship with soil moisture and a poor relationship with soil temperature, (3) CO2 fluxes vary noticeably between long and short snow season sites throughout the year, with short snow season fluxes typically higher than those of long snow season sites, and (4) CO2 fluxes for short and long snow seasons have a strong relationship with soil temperature and a poor relationship with soil moisture. Our findings suggest that rates of evaporative water loss will not be strongly influenced by changes in length of snow season, but that CO2 fluxes will be significantly influenced by these environmental changes such that we might expect greater carbon losses to the atmosphere.
Nelson, K., Papuga, S.A., John, G.P., Minor, R., Barron-Gafford, G.A. (2011): Influence of Snow Cover Duration on Soil Evaporation and Respiration Efflux in Mixed-conifer Ecosystems . AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract B41A-0205..