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Understanding the impact of tree structure on snow depth and extent is important in order to make predictions of snow amounts and how changes in forest cover may affect future water resources. In this work, we investigate snow depth under tree canopies and in open areas to quantify the role of tree structure in controlling snow depth, as well as the controls from wind and topography. We use fine-scale terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) data collected across Grand Mesa, Colorado, USA (winter 2016–2017), to measure the snow depth and extract horizontal and vertical tree descriptors (metrics) at six sites. We utilize these descriptors along with topographical metrics in multiple linear and decision tree regressions to investigate snow depth variations under the canopy and in open areas. Canopy, topography, and snow interaction results indicate that vegetation structural metrics (specifically foliage height diversity; FHD) along with local-scale processes like wind and topography are highly influential in snow depth variation. Our study specifies that windward slopes show greater impact on snow accumulation than vegetation metrics. In addition, the results indicate that FHD can explain up to 27 % of sub-canopy snow depth variation at sites where the effect of topography and wind is negligible. Solar radiation and elevation are the dominant controls on snow depth in open areas. Fine-scale analysis from TLS provides information on local-scale controls and provides an opportunity to be readily coupled with lidar or photogrammetry from uncrewed aerial systems (UASs) as well as airborne and spaceborne platforms to investigate larger-scale controls on snow depth.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.