Snowtography quantifies effects of forest cover on net water input to soil at sites with ephemeral or stable seasonal snowpack in Arizona, USA

Ravindra Dwivedi, Joel A. Biederman, Patrick D. Broxton, Kangsan Lee, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Forested, snow-dominated watersheds provide a range of ecosystem services including water supply, carbon sequestration, habitat and recreation. While hydrologic partitioning has been well-studied in watersheds with stable seasonal snowpack, less is known about watersheds with ephemeral snowpack. Furthermore, drought-related disturbances and/or management practices are altering vegetation cover in many forests, with unknown and potentially different, consequences for stable seasonal versus ephemeral snowpacks. This study quantifies net water input (NWI) to soil for two sites with contrasting stable seasonal and ephemeral snowpacks, respectively, for three water years in Arizona, USA. Observations include a network of automated cameras and graduated snow stakes (snowtography) deployed across gradients of forest structure, airborne lidar maps of topography and forests and SNOTEL station records. Given the importance of mixed-phase precipitation in ephemeral snowpack watersheds, an algorithm is developed to distinguish among snowfall and rainfall that does/does not contribute to snowpack mass. Finally, existing canopy interception and snowpack models are used to estimate how NWI varies with canopy cover. At the ephemeral snowpack site, increasing canopy cover reduces NWI amount and advances its seasonal timing less strongly than at the stable seasonal snowpack site. Interestingly, canopy reduces NWI duration at the ephemeral site but prolongs it at the stable seasonal snowpack site. These effects are more important in a cool/wet and average year than a warm/dry year. Understanding differences between canopy impacts on amount, timing and duration of NWI for areas with ephemeral versus stable seasonal snowpack is increasingly important as the number of watersheds with ephemeral snowpack grows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2494
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Snowtography
  • forest
  • net water input to soil
  • precipitation partitioning
  • snowmelt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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