Providence Creek headwater catchments

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The primary Southern Sierra CZO research area is the Providence Creek headwaters, located on the North Fork of the Kings River. The Providence Creek headwaters area varies in elevation from 1660 to 2115 meters. This 4.6 square kilometer catchment is designated as P300. Nested within the P300 catchment are three subcatchments, designated as P301, P303 and P304.

4.6 km2   Area

1660 - 2117 m   Elev

8 °C   Temp

1200 mm   Precip

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

Lithology

igneous-felsic intrusive

Land Use

forest land

Areas within Providence Creek headwater catchments

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

    A critical research zone in the Sierra

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


    Providence Creek headwaters

    Sensors and instruments installed within the Providence Creek headwaters are used principally to measure snow depth, soil moisture, temperatures, and sap flow.  The primary catchment is designated P300 with three subcatchments (designated P301, P303 and P304) contained within it.  For catchment locations, refer to the Overview Maps and Dynamic Map tabs.  The dynamic map provides a Google Maps interface showing the locations and basic information of the many sensors and instruments we use within the Providence Creek headwaters research area.  For additional technical information visit our Sensors & Field Instruments page.

    These Providence Creek catchments are part of the larger Kings River Experimental Watersheds (KREW) research project which is run by scientists from the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. For a description of the hydrology and hydrometeorology of the KREW catchments, see Hunsaker et al. (pdf). Locations of all eight KREW headwater catchments (varying in size from 49-228 ha) are shown on this KREW overview map (jpg).

    The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Domain 17 (D17 - Pacific Southwest) is proposed to be co-located with our CZO infrastructure.  The recent Plan of Development is available here (pdf).


    P301, P303 and P304 Subcatchments

    Flux Tower

    An eddy covariance flux tower is located near the top of the P301 subcatchment.  The tower was mounted at an elevation of 2020 meters in September 2008. 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). Three other flux towers have been instrumented at different elevations with the central Sierra Nevada region, including the San Joaquin Experimental Range, Short Hair Creek and Soaproot Saddle.

    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.

    Water Balance Transect

    Also located within the headwaters of the P301 subcatchment is a series of montane meadows. A water balance transect has been established which is comprised of monitoring wells, piezometers, soil sensors, and meteorological sensors.  The instruments were installed in December 2008 with elevations ranging between 1950 and 1990 meters.  

    Meteorological Stations

    Field staff from the KREW project and Southern Sierra CZO operate and maintain the two meteorological stations located in the Providence Creek headwaters.  The upper elevation met station is located within the P303 subcatchment at an elevation of 1980 meters.  The lower elevation met station is located within the larger P300 catchment at an elevation of 1750 meters.  Both met stations were installed in October 2002. 

    Water Balance Instrument Clusters

    Also collocated at this site are three water balance instrument clusters used to monitor snow depth, solar radiation, air temperature, soil water content, and soil temperature. These instrument clusters incorporate North, South, and Flat aspects to capture landscape variability. They are situated in clusters near the Upper and Lower Meteorological Stations.  Instruments installed October 2007 (Flat aspect) and December 2007 (North and South aspects).  The upper clusters are at an elevation of 1980 meters while the lower clusters are at 1750 meters.  

    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 the KREW project and Southern Sierra CZO.  P300 instruments were installed October 2009 while P301, P303, and P304 instruments were installed September 2008.  They are located at a mean elevation of 1740 meters.  

    Micromet Sensors

    The four research catchments in the Providence Creek headwaters are 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 but was 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.


    Related Sites

    Four additional headwater catchments in the same rain-snow transition elevation range have been instrumented in the Sierra Nevada under the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP). For further information contact Roger Bales or Martha Conklin. For information on obtaining LIDAR data from the SNAMP sites, contact Qinghua Guo.

    The Mountain Hydrology Research Group also maintains a transect of instrumentation running over Tioga Pass Road, in Yosemite National Park. For further information contact Bob Rice.

    An overview map is available here (jpg) showing the locations of Sierra Nevada climate, hydrology and ecology research sites and field stations.  These sites provide some infrastructure for community research.

    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

    © USDA Forest Service / Pacific Southwest Research Station

  • Overview Maps

    Southern Sierra CZO overview map

    See full size (in new tab/window)

    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)
    10 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Hydrology, Biology / Ecology    Peter Hartsough, Jan Hopmans

    Met Stations, Providence, Lower - Meteorology (2002-2011)
    18 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Climatology / Meteorology    Carolyn Husaker

    National - Climate, Flux Tower, Streamflow / Discharge (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, Flux Towers Transect, Wolverton Basin, 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 - LiDAR (2010-2017)
    16 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    Geomorphology, GIS / Remote Sensing, Hydrology, Biology / Ecology    Data Provider and Roles: National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping Role: Collector Url: http://ncalm.org/ National Science Foundation Role: Funder Url: http://nsf.gov Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory Role: Partner Url: http://czo.colorado.edu/ National Science Foundation (NSF-0724960) Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory Role: Partner Url: http://criticalzone.org/calhoun/ National Science Foundation (EAR-1339015, EAR-1331846) Jemez EAR-1043051 University of Arizona Role: Partner Url: http://www.arizona.edu/ University of California, Merced Role: Partner Url: http://www.ucmerced.edu Valles Caldera National Preserve Role: Partner Url: https://www.nps.gov/vall/ Bandelier National Monument/ National Park Service Role: Partner Url: http://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm Jemez River Basin and Santa Catalina Mountains Critical Zone Observatory Role: Partner Url: http://www.czo.arizona.edu National Science Foundation Award EAR-0724958 Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory Role: Partner Url: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lczo/ NSF EAR-0922307 Reynolds Creek NSF EPS-0814387, EPS-0447689, NNX14AD81G Eel River EAR-1043051 Shale Hills EAR-0922307

    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    Hydrology    USGS National Water Information System

    Providence - Streamflow / Discharge (2003-2010)
    21 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Hydrology    Carolyn Hunsaker

    Providence, Lower Met, North aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2015)
    24 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales, Matthew Meadows, Erin Stacy, Xiande Meng

    Providence, Lower Met, South aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2015)
    24 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales, Matthew Meadows, Erin Stacy, Xiande Meng

    Providence, Upper Met, Flat aspect - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Snow Depth, Air Temperature (2008-2013)
    26 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    Hydrology, Climatology / Meteorology    Roger Bales, Matthew Meadows, Erin Stacy, Xiande Meng

    Spatial Data - GIS/Map Data (2013-2014)
    8 components    Providence Creek headwater catchments    GIS / Remote Sensing    Stacy, E.

    Spatial Data - GIS/Map Data (2003-2011)
    10 components    Wolverton Basin, Providence Creek headwater catchments, 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
Climate
Ecosystems
  • Geology

    • igneous-felsic intrusive

    granidorite and granite

  • Climate

    8 °C Mean Annual Temp
    1200 mm Mean Annual Precipitation

    The southern Sierra Nevada is a Mediterranean climate, and experiences relatively wet winters and dry summers. Annual average temperatures are about 8ºC at the bottom and 1-2ºC cooler at the top of the CZO catchments. These differences are driven largely by daytime temperatures, owing to cold-air draingage at night. Daytime winds are upslope and nighttime winds downslope, with wind speeds generally under 1-2 m s-1. Precipitation averages about 120 cm per year, and is about 20-60% snow. Photosynthessis persists through the winter, and soils and regolith store enough water for photosynthesis to occur all summer. As soils dry out, trees apparently extract water from the deeper soils. Annual runoff is about 15-30% of precipitation in dry years, increasing to 30-50% in wet years. The ground in snow covered for 4-5 months each year, and may experience multiple melt events during the winter and spring. 

  • Ecosystems

    The catchments are largely Sierran mixed-conifer forest, with some mixed chaparral and rock outcrops. Dominant trees are white fir (Abies concolor), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) and black oak (Quercus kelloggii). Several species of shrubs are also present. Of the three perennial streams, one borders meadow over 90% of its length, one has no meadow, and the third is intermediate.