State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2009WA255B
Title: Adaptive Management of Mountain Forests to Prevent Mass Wasting under Climate Change
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: Washington 5th
Focus Categories: Climatological Processes, Hydrology, Sediments
Keywords: Climate, Landslide, Sediment Modeling, Hydrology
Principal Investigators: Adam, Jennifer (Washington State University); Muhunthan, Balasingam
Federal Funds: $ 27,500
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 55,030
Abstract: The current Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for forests managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires research be carried out to improve the effectiveness of conservation strategies while moving from short- to long-term solutions. Included in these management strategies are several options designed to protect endangered wildlife and aquatic species through establishment of riparian buffers to prevent the excess sediment in streams caused by mass wasting (landslides). Existing strategies based on past slope behavior may not adequately factor in the anticipated precipitation and soil moisture conditions expected due to climate change nor the hydrologic impacts of land use changes due to regional timber harvesting. Management decisions for forests nation-wide would be improved by a systematic approach for evaluating the effects of projected climate change on slope stability under various management techniques. Remote sensing has made it possible to economically estimate landslide danger over regional to continental scales. Landslide danger is frequently mapped using the Landslide Susceptibility Index (LSI), determined by performing a weighted linear combination of static factors, such as slope, elevation, and soil and vegetation characteristics, all of which can be derived from remote sensing products. The weights used for each of these factors are based on the knowledge of past landslide events under historical climate and land use regimes, and are unlikely to remain constant in a different climate or with a change in land cover. Therefore, there is a need to update the remote sensing-based LSIs for changes in climate and land use. To do this, we propose applying the Distributed Hydrology-Soil-Vegetation Model (DHSVM) model with modules for slope stability, erosion, and sediment transport to predict landslide occurrence and the resulting concentrations in stream sediment under varying climate and land use regimes. Our overarching goal is to identify long-term solutions for the management of riparian areas in landslide prone areas under the effects of predicted climate change. The objective of this project is to determine the feasibility of using the modeling system to update remote sensing-based LSIs for a range of climate and vegetation scenarios. Our rationale is to provide a tool to managing organizations, such as the DNR or the US Forest Service (USFS), to make informed decisions in choosing long-term management practices. Although the feasibility of the tool will be tested on a regional scale, the tool may be applied to any forest where mass wasting events occur, giving the project national significance. This project relates to SWWRC priority activity #1, "Climate change effects on water balances, stream flows, and water quality".

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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