Forest structure has a strong relationship with abiotic components of the environment. For example, canopy morphology controls snow depth through interception and modifies incoming thermal radiation. In turn, snow water availability affects forest growth, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. We investigated how structural diversity and topography affect snow depth patterns across scales. The study site, Grand Mesa, Colorado, is representative of many areas worldwide where declining snowpack and its consequences for forest ecosystems are increasingly an environmental concern. On the basis of a convolution neural network model (R2 of 0.64; root mean squared error of 0.13 m), we found that forest structural and topographic metrics from airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) at fine scales significantly influence snow depth during the accumulation season. Moreover, complex vertically arranged foliage intercepts more snow and results in shallower snow depths below the canopy. Assessing forest structural controls on snow distribution and depth will aid efforts to improve understanding of the ecological and hydrological impacts of changing snow patterns.
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Hojatimalekshah, Ahmad; Gongora, Joel; Enterkine, Josh; Glenn, Nancy F.; Caughlin, T. Trevor; Marshall, Hans-Peter; and Hiemstra, Christopher A.. (2023). "Lidar and Deep Learning Reveal Forest Structural Controls on Snowpack". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 21(1), 49-54. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2584