Ecosystem Experiments Site)
Is a high elevation wilderness-like
site where research is conducted to determine the effects of atmospheric
change and climate change on alpine and subalpine aquatic and terrestrial
ecosystems and the upper treeline ecotone. Long-term physical, chemical,
and biological monitoring is an important component of the activities at
Description of the GLEES site: The
Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site
Other GLEES Pages: Past
Publications | Vascular Plant Taxa
This Page Navigation:
Site Database | Active
Monitoring Programs | Active Research
Federal Land Management:
The site has been
ideal for developing and testing techniques for monitoring of Air Quality
Related Values (AQRVs) in wilderness-type ecosystems. It
is recommended as a research site for evaluation of new questions
identified from the Federal Land Managers AQRV
Workgroup (FLAG) Phase I Report as research needs to be
explored for FLAG Phase II. Intensive research can be conducted without the restrictions imposed on wilderness.
The site is
accessible in winter by snow machine. The site has relatively
light recreation use impact.
from universities, other federal agencies, and other research
institutions are invited to participate in the research at this
Dr. Robert Musselman - GLEES Manager
USDA Forest Service
Rocky Mountain Research Station
240 West Prospect Ft.
Collins, CO 80526
Phone: (970) 498-1239
FAX: 970-498-1010 or -1212
Ecosystem Experiments Site location:
- In the Snowy
Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, 55 km west of Laramie, and 15 km
NW of Centennial, Wyoming representative of Class I wilderness areas
on public lands.
- A 600
ha research watershed in complex mountainous terrain at
3200-3500 m elevation.
the Snowy Range Research Natural Area.
Hydrologic, Geologic, Soil, and Floristic characteristics:
- small, contained alpine/subalpine watershed and subcatchments with
interconnected snowfield, first order streams, wetlands and unique
glacial cirque lakes.
- adjacent (120m distant) alpine lakes of similar surface area and depth, but
differing in watershed area, inflow patterns (open vs. closed
systems), turnover rates, stratification, snowcover, deposition input,
water chemistry and aquatic biota.
- lakes with low buffering capacity, sensitive to atmospheric deposition.
- ecotone between alpine and subalpine, accessible year round.
- exposed and slow-weathering bedrock.
- talus slopes and shallow immature soils having low base saturation.
- alpine and
subalpine vegetation - 304 vascular plant species in 14 distinct
forest, meadow, shrub, and krummholz plant associations.
- old-growth forests with trees > 700 years old.
- almost 200 phytoplanton species identified.
- a harsh
environment with high winds, low temperatures, and snow cover (and ice
covered lakes) 7-8 months each year.
- Located on the
Laramie Ranger District, Medicine Bow National Forest (MBNF).
similar to wilderness ecosystems with no harvest or off road motorized
(except over snow) vehicles allowed. Removed from grazing allotment
and mining claims in the 1990's.
managed by the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS).
cooperation with MBNF management and RMRS for research dealing with
Cabin located 2 km northwest of Centennial, Wyoming, and 10 km from
the GLEES, is used for housing and as a staging site for field
research. The cabin also houses fully equipped wet and dry
close proximity to RMRS headquarters and Colorado State University (2
hrs drive); and the University of Wyoming (1/2 hr drive).
- A facilities
manager and field site manager coordinates field operations at the
- A PC
accessible database managed by the field site manager.
Centennial Cabin is located 1 mile northwest of Centennial, Wyoming.
Historic background data:
- A long history
of alpine vegetation research and meteorological monitoring exists at
the site and surrounding area. Data were collected here on alpine
ecosystems by University of Wyoming ecologists in the 1950's.
- The Snowy
Range Observatory network was established here in the 1960's to
collect temperature and precipitation data.
- A SNOTEL site
was established near the GLEES in the 1930's.
- In the early
1990's the GLEES was part of a monitoring program pairing research
sites in the United States with similar sites in Eastern Europe. GLEES
was paired with a site on Mt. Elbrus, Russia.
- The GLEES has
a rich baseline database of air quality and meteorological data, and
an extensive research effort in this ecosystem shown to be sensitive
to atmospheric deposition. An extensive collection of meteorological,
hydrological, water chemistry, snow chemistry, wet and dry deposition,
geological, soils, snow cover, aquatic, floristic, and topographic
information exists in the GLEES database.
- Two major
monitoring sites have been established for meteorological and air
quality monitoring, one at an alpine/subalpine ecotone location
(Glacier Lakes) and the other in the subalpine (Brooklyn Lake).
- A network of
terrestrial field plots, hydrological sites, and permanent vegetation
and aquatic sampling plots exists. An extensive herbarium collection
of vascular plant species is housed at the Centennial cabin, with a
duplicate set archived at the University of Wyoming Herbarium,
- Checklists of
terrestrial vascular plant species, phytoplankton, periphyton,
zooplankton, and macroinvertebrates have been assembled.
- The GLEES
database is accessible by PC. GLEES data have been used by researchers
from other government agencies and universities.
the following monitoring activities:
An 18 meter
tower is located at 3286 m elevation between East and West Glacier Lakes.
A 30 m tower is located at 3182 m elevation near Brooklyn Lake. A 6 m
meterological tower is located near the shore of West Glacier Lake. All
three towers support meterological sensors and a datalogger that receives,
processes, and stores the data for downloading every Tuesday. Data are
captured every 15 minutes and include:
- Soil Temperature at 0.5 and 20 cm soil depths
- Surface Wetness
- Air Temperature
- Relative Humidity
- Wind Speed
- Wind Direction
- Pyranometer radiation
As part of
the National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN),
precipitation is captured at two sites on GLEES. One site, WY95
(Brooklyn), is located at the Brooklyn Lake monitoring site, and the
second site, WY00 (Snowy Range), is located near West Glacier Lake. A
paired comparison of the Brooklyn site was operated 1998-1999 for QA/QC
and the site is available for further instrumentation evaluation or
There are about 200 NADP/NTN stations across the United
States, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. Wet deposition is collected
continously at these stations throughout the year, with samples removed
between 0900 and 1100 every Tuesday and analyzed locally for pH and
conductivity. Samples are then shipped to a central analytical laboratory
operated by the Illinois State Water Survey, where they are analyzed for
SO4, NO3, Cl, PO4, Na, K, Ca, Mg, NH4,
H and reanalyzed for pH and conductivity.
Precipation amounts at the NADP/NTN sites are collected
by a Belfort dual traverse recording rain gage, and through
utilization of a weight calculation of the sample. NADP
data are available from the network, including the two GLEES
sites, at: nadp.sws.uiuc.edu.
As part of the Clean
Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNet), dry deposition
and ozone are sampled weekly at the GLEES Brooklyn monitoring
Established in 1987, CASTNet comprises 71 monitoring stations
across the United States. The majority of the monitoring
stations are operated under contract to EPA's Office of
Air and Radiation. In conjunction with state and local monitoring
efforts, the CASTNet monitoring network is used to determine
the effectiveness of emissions control programs.
The CASTNet site at GLEES measures atmospheric concentrations
of sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, sulfur dioxide, and nitric
acid, continuous ambient ozone levels; and meteorological
conditions required for calculating dry deposition rates.
The GLEES site is equipped with a temperature controlled
shelter, ozone analyzer, meteorological sensors, a filter
pack sampling system, datalogger, and a radio phone modem.
Filter packs are exposed for 1-week intervals (i.e., Tuesday
to Tuesday) at a flow rate of 3.0 liters per minute and
sent to a laboratory in Florida for chemical analysis. Information
on CASTNet is available at: www.epa.gov/castnet/
As part of the Inter-agency
Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE),
particulate sampling occurred at the GLEES Brooklyn site
The IMPROVE network began collecting data on visual air
quality for selected EPA mandatory Class I areas in 1988.
The goals of the program are to: 1) Determine existing visual
air quality in federal Class I areas, 2) Identify sources
of existing human-induced impairment and 3) Document long-term
trends to track progress towards the long-term goal of no
human-induced impairment of protected areas. During the
1990's, a camera was located along Highway 130 looking toward
the Snowy Range. The GLEES Brooklyn IMPROVE was installed
at the GLEES Brooklyn site and began operation in the late
1980's. The GLEES Brooklyn IMPROVE was upgraded to a full
IMPROVE site with 4 modules in July 2000, and monitoring
was discontinued December 31, 2004.
data are available at:
EPA Guidelines for visibility monitoring are at:
and Water Content
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a
SNOTEL site at 3115 m elevation near Brooklyn Lake that
remotely samples all precipitation, the minimum, maximum
and average temperature, snow depth, and water content.
A typical SNOTEL remote site consists of measuring devices
and sensors, a shelter house with an antenna for the radio
telemetry equipment, and solar panels used to keep batteries
charged. A standard sensor configuration includes
snow pillows, a storage precipitation gauge, and a temperature
sensor. The snow pillows are envelopes of stainless
steel or synthetic rubber containing an antifreeze solution.
As snow accumulates on the pillows, it exerts pressure on
the solution. Automatic measuring devices in the shelter
house convert the weight of the snow into an electrical
reading of the snow's water equivalent--that is, the actual
amount of water in a given volume of snow.
For more information, see the SNOTEL
web site: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/
Dioxide Flux Measurements
Ambient atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major contributor
to global warming has steadily increased during the past
century. Yet, for all of it's importance to radiationally
driven atmospheric warming, the global budget of carbon
dioxide is still not well known. In an effort to better
define the global carbon budget, the AMERIFLUX group has
been formed to measure carbon dioxide fluxes using eddy
The AMERIFLUX effort is closely coordinated with similar
international efforts such as the EUROFLUX. We have established
an AMERIFLUX site at GLEES. To support the AMERIFLUX effort,
we have installed flux measurements instrumentation on the
Brooklyn 30 m tower. Our goal is to obtain flux data at
the tower site as nearly continously as possible for the
next 5 years. The AMERIFLUX network is described at:
Current Research Activities
Seedling Germination and Survival at the Alpine-subalpine
Ecotones are edges of species' distributions,
hence they may provide early indications of biological effects of a
changing physical and chemical climate. However, it is not currently
known if there is a predictable pattern to dynamic changes in ecotones
under natural conditions, in particular, the distribution of seedlings
survival. Plots have been established at GLEES to examine the
relationship between patterns of seedling establishment and biotic and
abiotic factors at multiple scales (10cm - 25m). These plots will
also be used to follow seedling establishment and survival over time and
relate these dynamics to regional climate patterns.
Increasing levels of nitrogen deposition
have been reported for the Rocky Mountains, particularly in high
elevation alpine watersheds of the Colorado Front Range. Understanding
the consequences of increased nitrogen on plant productivity, community
structure, and ecosystem function is important to land management
decisions in alpine and wilderness areas. We have experimentally
increased nitrogen deposition to small wet and dry subalpine meadow
plots and are monitoring ecosystem changes in soil respiration,
in soil nitrogen processing, and in aboveground species composition
environments in the western United States are sensitive to the effects
of anthropogenically derived acidic deposition. Yet little
is known about the movement of these pollutants, such as nitrates,
within the hydrological systems of the alpine environments.
The near-stream spatial and temporal gradients of nitrates in the
soil solute is the focus of a study.
Nitrogen Cycling in Riparian Ecosystems
is underway to examine the sources and sinks of nitorgen in a subcatchment
of GLEES. Isotopic signatures of nitrogen and oxygen will be used
to identify sources of nitrate in the system. The research will
identify the importance of different landscape types in nitrogen
cycling. The study is a cooperative effort of Colorado State University
and the RMRS.
The Dynamics of Disturbance on Subalpine Forests
A study has been being initiated to identify
disturbance events and to quantify their relationship to the formation
of gaps in the forest canopy of the subalpine forest. A network
of plots to examine this question of forest stand dynamics has been
established at the GLEES and the nearby Snowy Range Natural Area.
Dendrochronology in the Subalpine Forest at GLEES
The science of dendrochronology offers
a powerful tool to aid in understanding ecosystem processes, especially
as influenced by past disturbances, climatic change, and forest
growth and development. Research is developing tree-ring width
chronologies and to document maximum age structures in the sub-alpine
forest stands in and near GLEES. The age of forest stands at the
GLEES has been determined.