You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Carbon Storage in Mountain Rivers Studied

Photo of Recent studies measured the distribution of carbon in pools in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. USDA Forest ServiceRecent studies measured the distribution of carbon in pools in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Findings show that low-gradient, broad valley bottoms with old-growth forest or active beaver colonies store the majority of above- and below-ground carbon. Estimates of riverine carbon storage represent a previously undocumented but important carbon sink.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Dwire, Kathleen A.  
Research Location : Colorado
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 543

Summary

Published research confirms downstream export of terrestrial carbon from headwaters, but few studies exist on the volume of carbon storage along stream riparian corridors. Recent studies measured the spatial distribution of carbon pools along different valley types of headwater streams in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Findings show that low-gradient, broad valley bottoms with old-growth forest or active beaver colonies store the majority of above- and below-ground carbon. Estimates of riverine carbon storage represent a previously undocumented but important carbon sink. Results indicate that: not all mountainous rivers rapidly export carbon; not all valley segments are equally important in carbon storage; and historical changes in riverine complexity have likely reduced carbon storage. These findings highlight the importance of headwater streams and associated riparian areas in watershed scale carbon retention. Management to reduce effects of climate warming on headwater river corridors is important to maintaining ecosystem services such as carbon storage in mountainous watersheds.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Colorado State University

Strategic
Program Areas

Priority
Areas