TESEE - Tree Effects on Snowpack Energetics Experiment

Understanding the Role of Forests and Forest Disturbance on Snowpack Accumulation, Melt, and Evaporation in Australia's Snowy Mountains

The snowpack contained in the Snowy Mountains sits precariously on the edge of complete disappearance for the majority of the winter season due to high amounts of energy imparted on it from the atmosphere and ground. This project aims to examine and quantify the impacts of Eucalyptus pauciflora trees on the snowpack in the Snowy Mountains of Southeastern Australia. Effects of single trees as well as those of living and dead (burned) tree stands on snow accumulation, ablation, and snow water equivalent (SWE) will be investigated over a variety of spatiotemporal scales. This project is important to water management practices and the understanding of the evolution of water storage in the Australian Alps. In addition, understanding snowpacks in temperate climates similar to those of Australia will become more vital as mean global temperatures continue to rise and mountain ranges continue to warm and undergo changes to their ecosystems. It could be considered a pilot study for changes to forested snowpacks that will accompany climate change as it impacts the mountainous regions in the mid- and upper-latitude regions of the world.

Study Site

This study is near Perisher and Charlotte Pass Ski Resorts in the Snowy Mountain Range of the Australian Alps. The dead treed and tree-less sites are located near the headwaters of Piper’s Creek approximately 17.4 km west of Jindabyne, NSW in Kosciuszko National Park. The living treed site is located near Spensers Creek just east of Charlotte Pass Ski Resort and slightly further away from Jindabyne than the other two. The forest in these areas is characterized by living and dead (burned) short Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow Gum) tree stands that are representative of the forests found at high altitudes in the areas associated with mainland Australian’s snowfall.

Objectives

Objective 1: Determine energy contributed to the snowpack by a single Eucalyptus pauciflora tree in the Australian Alps

Objective 2: Understand differences in snowpack energy flux between a treeless area, living treed forest stand, and dead (burned) treed forest stand in the Australian Alps

Objective 3: Investigate spatiotemporal variation in accumulation and ablation of snowpack in a treeless area, living treed forest stand, and dead (burned) treed forest stand in the Australian Alps