Snow accumulation under farious forest stand densities at Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Montana, USA

TitleSnow accumulation under farious forest stand densities at Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Montana, USA
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference1997
AuthorsMoore, C. A., and McCaughey W. W.
Conference Name65th Annual Western Snow Conference
Series TitleProceedings of the 65th Annual Western Snow Conference
Date PublishedMay 1997
PublisherWestern Snow Conference
Conference LocationBanff, Alberta
KeywordsBasal Area, Engelmann spruce, Interception, lodgepole pine, subalpine fir

Snow accumulation in forested watersheds is controlled by climate, elevation, topographic factors and vegetation structure. Conifers affect snow accumulation principally by intercepting snow with the canopy which may later be sublimated. Various tree, stand, species and canopy densities of a subalpine fir habitat (ALBANASC) in central Montana were studied to determine if there was a response of snow accumulation to vegetation. Tree canopy cover, basal area, age since stand initiation, and species composition were measured at several sites with minimal topographic differences. Peak snow water equivalent was measured at 270 sample points within 8 stands divided between 3 study areas and at three corresponding open meadows. The study took place during the winter of 1995-1996 on the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest in the Little Belt Mountains near Great Falls, Montana. It is administered by the USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station.Variation in peak accumulation (SWE) on the forest floor was impacted the greatest by the percent of canopy cover measured by the 30deg view angle of a photocanopyometer. Half of the variation in snow accumulation can be attributed to variation in canopy cover. A 6.4 percent decrease in peak snow water equivalent was observed per 10 percent increase in canopy density. Snow samples under subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce canopies showed a closer correlation between canopy and peak snow water equivalent than did lodgepole pine canopies. Basal area was found to be a poor predictor of snow accumulation.