2020 Darcy Lecture: Killer Beetles, Naked Trees, and Dirty Water: Understanding Hydrology and Water Quality Impacts from the Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation in the Rocky Mountain West
Darcy Lecture Series in Groundwater Science with Prof. Reed Maxwell Director of the Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center (IGWMC) at the Colorado School of Mines
VenueUniversité de Neuchâtel
This lecture by Prof. Reed Maxwell will present research from a six-year project that brought together hydrologists, environmental engineers, social scientists and education and outreach specialists to study the broad water quality, quantity and social impacts of the MPB epidemic.
Warmer temperatures and drought conditions exacerbated by climate change have intensified mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation in the Rocky Mountains of North America. The associated tree death over the last decade is unprecedented in recorded history; more than four million acres of forest in Colorado and Wyoming have been impacted by MPB. The visual impact of dying and dead forests is stunning, but the invisible changes to the water cycle may be a longer-lasting legacy. From 1998 to 2014, MPB infestation extended to vital watersheds in the Rocky Mountain west. This included the Platte and Colorado River headwaters, which provide water for 30 million residential users and 1.8 million acres of irrigated agriculture. This lecture will present research from a six-year project that brought together hydrologists, environmental engineers, social scientists and education and outreach specialists to study the broad water quality, quantity and social impacts of the MPB epidemic. Several science paradoxes emerged in this work around issues of scale. For example, hydrologic changes from the tree-to-hillslope scale are clearly documented while these same processes appear to reverse as we move to the catchment-to-regional scale. Increases in dissolved organic carbon are creating water quality challenges for local producers, yet water quantity impacts are inconclusive. This work builds process understanding with local-scale observations and uses hydrologic models to bridge across scales. These models demonstrate how competing factors may buffer hydrologic response to tree mortality from hillslope to watershed scales. Furthermore, we found persistent shifts in watershed behavior as flow paths are altered by a changing landscape. Ultimately, our work to identify changes in stream water sources in MPB-infested watersheds provides insights into the future behavior of forested landscapes that are changing throughout the region and worldwide.
About the Lecture Series
The Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecture Series in Groundwater Science fosters interest and excellence in groundwater science and technology. It was established in 1986 in honor of Henry Darcy of France for his 1856 investigations that established the physical basis upon which groundwater hydrogeology has been studied ever since. Each year, a panel of scientists and engineers invites an outstanding groundwater professional to share his or her work with their peers and students through an international lecture series.