• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.


Predicting snow water equivalence (SWE) and soil moisture response to restoration treatments in headwater ponderosa pine forests of the Desert LCC

Science Need(s)

Critical Management Question 1: Water Management and Climate Change
How are climate change, water management, and their interaction affecting the physical processes that support springs, aquatic and riparian habitats, species, and human cultures? What are viable management options to mitigate these effects and support ecosystem functions? How can climate change, hydrological, ecological, and/or biological models be used to better understand the potential future effects of climate change, inform adaptive management and development of beneficial management practices, and create related decision support tools?

Critical Management Question 2: Monitoring Species/Processes and Related Threats/Stressors
What species and ecological processes are sensitive to climate change and/or other large scale stressors (e.g., water management, invasive species, altered fire regime, wind erosion) and can be effectively monitored to indicate the overall effects of these stressors on ecosystems, habitats, and species, thus helping managers detect, understand, and respond to these changes? What are the best monitoring designs and protocols to detect changes to these processes and species at temporal and geographic scales suitable for providing adequate and reliable metrics?

Critical Management Question 5: Changing Wildfire Regimes and Riparian Habitat Management
Under what conditions or circumstances are changes in wildfire regimes (e.g., frequency, size, and severity), influenced by climate change, land use practices, and invasive species, likely to have significant impacts on the biodiversity and ecosystem function and services of riparian ecosystems? What management practices might be most effective for addressing changing wildfire regimes in riparian systems?

Grantee: Northern Arizona University
Principle Investigators: Frances O'Donnell
Cooperative Agreement:  $153,109 in non-Federal funds and $149,866 in Federal funds provided by Bureau of Reclamation
Project Duration: 2013-2015
Project Goal(s)
The goal of this project is to combine remotely sensed data, field measurements, and geospatial statistics to model snow water equivalence and soil moisture response to ponderosa pine forest restoration treatments at existing already-treated research sites in the Verde River basin of northern Arizona and to identify those treatments that are optimal from a water-balance perspective for sustaining water availability for plants as well as downstream water users in Verde Valley and the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Brief Project Description

Northern Arizona University will build upon the U.S. Forest Service Four Forest Restoration Initiative in Northern Arizona to investigate how restoration efforts can affect the water volume available in the snowpack and soil moisture in the Desert LCC. This project will result in a tool that can be used to predict the water volume in snowpack and soil moisture response to various forest treatments.

Project Location

Verde River Basin; Centennial Forest, Fire and Fire Surrogate Study, and Gus Pearson Natural Area in Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) area

Project Tasks

  1. Literature review on relevant forest restoration treatments
  2. Satellite data and research permit acquisition
  3. GIS database development
  4. Field measurements for snow water equivalence and soil moisture
  5. Data analysis and modeling
  6. Model beta testing
  7. Reporting

Project Deliverables

  1. Database to include WorldView-2, Landsat 8, and MODIS satellite data, field data, and other available biophysical and climate data.
  2. Final report, along with data sets and metadata, as well as information on how to access the data from a long-term data repository which will be hosted at the Geospatial Research and Information Laboratory (GRAIL) at Northern Arizona University.
  3. Peer-reviewed journal article(s)
  4. Webinar and other presentations

Opportunities to learn more

Documents for downloading

Project Proposal