Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017CO338B

Effects of snow persistence on soil water nitrogen along the Colorado Front Range

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $2,550

Principal Investigators: Stephanie Kampf

Abstract: Snow cover is one of the most important factors affecting alpine ecosystems, and is highly sensitive to increasing temperatures, particularly in the lower elevations. The duration and quantity of snowpack affects seasonal melt patterns that in turn influence soil and vegetation dynamics. Vegetation abundance and productivity is also affected by the flux of nutrients available in the soil. These biogeochemical processes are directly influenced by the availability of water during the melt season. This research focuses on the hypothesis that higher elevations will produce increased snow melt that may result in amplified denitrification and nitrogen export. The research proposed here focuses on understanding the effects of differing climate scenarios on soil moisture and in turn, soil water biogeochemistry. The objectives of this study are to (1) manipulate snow depths at catchments in intermittent, transitional, and persistent snow zones along Colorado’s Front Range, and (2) use this monitoring to understand how snow accumulation and melt affects soil moisture and soil water nitrogen. This monitoring will be integrated into longer-term hydrologic monitoring to provide a collective analysis of snow persistence and biogeochemical fluxes that occur in alpine environments.