Pine beetles could trigger earlier snowmelt |

Pine beetles could trigger earlier snowmelt

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Kerry Huller, Casper Star-TribuneA lodgepole pine tree killed by mountain pine beetles glows red in the early morning light in Ryan Park, Wyo. in the Snowy Range in late August 2010. This summer the U.S. Forest Service worked in nearly 60 campgrounds and recreation areas in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest to either clear dead trees or spray those they could protect.

BOULDER (AP) – A new study suggests the mountain pine beetle outbreak in the West could trigger earlier snowmelt and increased water yields from snowpack under beetle-killed trees.

University of Colorado doctoral student Evan Pugh and his team monitored trees near Rocky Mountain National Park in the 2009 and 2010 winters.

His study, published this week in the journal “Ecohydrology,” found snow accumulation was about 15 percent higher under trees whose needles had fallen off than other stands, whose branches and needles collected snow. Pugh says trees without needles let more sunlight through the canopy, and dead needles on the ground absorb sunlight, allowing for faster snowmelt. Dead trees also don’t suck up water from the soil.

Pugh says that could boost potential flood risks but also water availability.

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