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Study: Pine Beetles Could Trigger Earlier Snowmelt

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The Colorado River (credit: CBS)

The Colorado River (credit: CBS)

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BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – A new study suggests the mountain pine beetle outbreak in the West could trigger earlier snowmelt and increased water yields from snowpack under beetle-killed trees.

University of Colorado doctoral student Evan Pugh and his team monitored trees near Rocky Mountain National Park in the 2009 and 2010 winters.

His study, published this week in the journal “Ecohydrology,” found snow accumulation was about 15 percent higher under trees whose needles had fallen off than other stands, whose branches and needles collected snow. Pugh says trees without needles let more sunlight through the canopy, and dead needles on the ground absorb sunlight, allowing for faster snowmelt. Dead trees also don’t suck up water from the soil.

Pugh says that could boost potential flood risks but also water availability.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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