- Leslie Reid - Research Geologist
- Carolyn Hunsaker - Research Ecologist
- Kevin Mazzocco - Biological Sciences Technican
- Susan Hilton - Hydrologist
- Elizabeth Keppeler - Hydrologist
- Diane Sutherland Montoya - Geomorphologist
- Caspar Creek Watershed Study
- Fine Sediment In Pools
- Kings River Experimental Watershed
- Turbidity Threshold Sampling Study
- CALFED watershed improvement program on the Lassen National Forest.
For the first time, a collaborative study [http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/014039] has compared water quality trends in forested streams across the country that are largely undisturbed by land use or land cover changes. The study draws on 559 years of stream nitrate and 523 years of stream ammonium data from 22 streams in 7 experimental forests across the country. The study found that even near-pristine forested streams are subject to change.
The Kings River Experimental Watersheds hosts the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory--a National Science Foundation effort to gain a better understanding of the zone of earth where "rock meets life." The critical zone extends from the tops of the trees to the groundwater and covers the entire earth where there is land. Dowload the video created by a UA Flandrau Science Center team to introduce the motivation and science involved in the National Critical Zone Observatory research program.
Kings River Experimental Watershed
Research Project Summary
Final Environmental Impact Statement issued in April 2011 [Sierra National Forest]
Characteristics of streams and rivers serve as integrators of broader environmental conditions because they reflect the conditions of the surrounding landscape (Hunsaker and Levine, 1995; Naiman and Bilby, 1998). Activities within a watershed, whether natural or anthropogenic, influence the most basic aspects of the hydrologic cycle. Vegetation absorbs and transpires water to the atmosphere; roads channelize water to streams; wildfire and logging decrease soil permeability; and dams alter the timing, frequency, and intensity of peak flows. All of these alterations directly impact habitat, trophic structure, and species demography, as well as physical and chemical processes.
Although stream conservation and preservation have recently become the priority of many agencies throughout North America (Naiman et al. 2000), what is considered appropriate management for forest ecosystems is a point of debate (U.S. Forest Service 2001). In contrast to terrestrial wildlife, the Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest has focused comparatively little attention and resources on forested stream ecosystems. Considering the current trends in human population growth and resource consumption, the protection and conservation of streams and rivers must become a priority for management agencies. Water quantity and quality is especially important in California's semi-arid climate. National forest land supplies approximately 60-70% of surface water.
The Kings River Experimental Watershed (KREW) is a watershed-level, integrated ecosystem project for headwater streams in the Sierra Nevada. Eight sub-watersheds have been chosen and fully instrumented to monitor ecosystem changes: four on the Big Creek drainage, three on the Dinkey Creek drainage, and one that drains directly into the North Fork, Kings River. Watersheds are located in two groups; the Providence Creek Site is located in mixed-conifer forest from 1500-2120 m (4920-6950 ft) elevation, and the Bull Creek Site is located in red fir/mixed-conifer from 2050-2480 m (6720-8150 ft) elevation. Each watershed will receive one of three management treatments, or serve as a control. The three treatments will be uneven-aged group selection thinning, prescribed fire, and a thinning with burn combination. Treatments are scheduled to begin in 2006 and may last for several seasons as some fire prescriptions call for repeated entries. Therefore, KREW is designed to continue for at least 15 years of study, providing at least four years of pre-treatment data, several years of post-treatment data, and several seasons of data that span successive treatments. Data collection on KREW began in 2002 for the Providence Site and 2003 for the Bull Site (Click here to view location map). This research is part of the larger Kings River Project. One watershed occurs on the Teakettle Experimental Forest.
The quality of aquatic, riparian (near-stream area), and meadow ecosystems is directly related to the integrity of adjacent uplands in their watershed. Forest Service scientists believe that these ecosystems are the most altered and impaired habitats of the Sierra Nevada primarily because of dams and diversions, overgrazing, roads, logging, and physical alteration. However, no long-term experimental watershed studies exist in the southern Sierra Nevada. Work began on the Kings River Experimental Watershed (KREW) in 2000 with data collection starting in October 2002. KREW has the following objectives.
Quantify the variability in characteristics of stream ecosystems and their associated watersheds.
Evaluate the effects of forest management (prescribed fire and uneven-aged, small-group tree harvesting), while maintaining older trees, large snags, and large woody debris throughout the landscape.
Maintain a mosaic of vegetation types and ages that mimic, to the extent possible, the historical distribution of vegetation resulting from frequent, low-intensity fires prevalent before European settlement of the West.
The Sierra Nevada Framework posed several management questions that KREW will address.
What is the effect of fire and fuel reduction treatments (i.e., thinning of trees) on the riparian and stream physical, chemical, and biological conditions?
Does the use of prescribed fire increase or decrease the rate of erosion (long term versus short term) and affect soil health and productivity?
How adequate and effective are current stream buffers at protecting aquatic ecosystems?
KREW will also address many basic and applied questions about headwater watersheds, streams, and riparian areas; these are outlined in detail in the KREW Study Plan (Hunsaker et al. 2004).
Methods and design
The KREW is divided into separate study components that address physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the watershed ecosystem. Each component represents factors that are dependent upon one another and are crucial to the integrity of the system. Whereas KREW is a large-scale study with many components, it cannot include every aspect of the ecosystem that might contribute to an understanding of its management. Therefore, component studies that are considered more fundamental to watershed ecosystems have taken priority; most are scheduled to continue for the duration of the project. Additional component studies may be added in the future, depending on funding availability.
Study components include:
- Channel Properties
- Fuel Loading
- Soil Characterization
- Stream Algae
- Stream Discharge
- Stream Invertebrates
- Water Chemistry
The KREW is located on the Sierra National Forest, High Sierra Ranger District, east of Shaver Lake, California. One of the KREW control watersheds occurs on the Teakettle Experimental Forest.
1)Hunsaker, C. T. 1)Eagan, S.; 1) Dolanc, C. ; 1) Lynch, M.; 1) Johnson, C.; 1)Cabrera, C.I.; 1) McClurg, T.; 1)Wilson, K.
1) USDA Forest Service, PSW Research Station
Sierra Nevada Research Center
2081 Sierra Avenue
Fresno, CA 93710
Publications and Reports
Hunsaker and Eagan (2003) (Right Click and Save as (648 KB)
Fire Ecology Brochure; (Right Click and Save as (945 KB)
Sediment Poster (2004) American Geophysical Union (Right Click and Save as (9,983 KB)
KREW overview (2004) Sierra Nevada Science Symposium (Right Click and Save as (8,427 KB)
Kings River Project Background (Right Click and Save as (29,764 KB)