Faculté des sciences

Influence of canopy density on snow distribution in a temperate mountain range

López-Moreno, Juan I. ; Latron, J.

In: Hydrological Processes, 2008, vol. 22, no. 1, p. 117-126

We analyse spatial variability and different evolution patterns of snowpack in a mixed beech-fir stand in the central Pyrenees. Snow depth and density were surveyed weekly along six transects of contrasting forest cover during a complete accumulation and melting season; we also surveyed a sector unaffected by canopy cover. Forest density was measured using the sky view factor (SVF) obtained from... Plus

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    Summary
    We analyse spatial variability and different evolution patterns of snowpack in a mixed beech-fir stand in the central Pyrenees. Snow depth and density were surveyed weekly along six transects of contrasting forest cover during a complete accumulation and melting season; we also surveyed a sector unaffected by canopy cover. Forest density was measured using the sky view factor (SVF) obtained from digital hemispherical photographs. During periods of snow accumulation and melting, noticeable differences in snow depth and density were found between the open site and those areas covered by forest canopy. Principal component analysis provided valuable information in explaining these observations. The results indicate a high variability in snow accumulation within forest areas related to differences in canopy density. Maximum snow water equivalent (SWE) was reduced by more than 50% beneath dense canopies compared with clearings, and this difference increased during the melting period. We also found significant temporal variations: when melting began in sectors with low SVF, most of the snow had already thawed in areas with high SVF. However, specific conditions occasionally produced a different response of SWE to forest cover, with lower melting rates observed beneath dense canopies. The high values of correlation coefficients for SWE and SVF (r > 0·9) indicate the reliability of predicting the spatial distribution of SWE in forests when only a moderate number of observations are available. Digital hemispherical photographs provide an appropriate tool for this type of analysis, especially for zenith angles in the range 35-55.