The effects of mountain pine beetle (MPB)-induced tree mortality on a headwater hydrologic system were investigated using an integrated physical modeling framework with a high-resolution computational grid. Simulations of MPB-affected and unaffected conditions, each with identical atmospheric forcing for a normal water year, were compared at multiple scales to evaluate the effects of scale on MPB-affected hydrologic systems. Individual locations within the larger model were shown to maintain hillslope-scale processes affecting snowpack dynamics, total evapotranspiration, and soil moisture that are comparable to several field-based studies and previous modeling work. Hillslope-scale analyses also highlight the influence of compensating changes in evapotranspiration and snow processes. Reduced transpiration in the Grey Phase of MPB-induced tree mortality was offset by increased late-summer evaporation, while overall snowpack dynamics were more dependent on elevation effects than MPB-induced tree mortality. At the watershed scale, unaffected areas obscured the magnitude of MPB effects. Annual water yield from the watershed increased during Grey Phase simulations by 11 percent; a difference that would be difficult to diagnose with long-term gage observations that are complicated by inter-annual climate variability. The effects on hydrology observed and simulated at the hillslope scale can be further damped at the watershed scale, which spans more life zones and a broader range of landscape properties. These scaling effects may change under extreme conditions, e.g.; increased total MPB-affected area or a water year with above average snowpack.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology
- integrated modeling
- mountain pine beetle