IMPACTS OF BEETLE KILL ON MODELED STREAMFLOW RESPONSE IN THE NORTH PLATTE RIVER BASIN
A beetle epidemic across the western United States has resulted in the death of millions of acres of forests. This beetle outbreak, referred to as “beetle kill”, has caused many to believe that such dramatic changes in land cover could potentially alter the hydrology of the impacted regions. One of the most important hydrological processes that beetle kill has the potential to impact is streamflow. This research evaluates the hydrologic impacts on streamflow from land cover change due to beetle kill in the North Platte River Basin (NPRB) (Colorado and Wyoming, USA) by utilizing the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model. Utilizing the National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) dataset from 2005 / 2006 (onset of “beetle kill”) to more current conditions (2009), a decrease in tree cover of 16% to 40% was estimated. This decrease in tree cover was applied to VIC modeled streamflow from 1950 to 2000. The VIC model predicted a minimal increase in streamflow of approximately 5% which was not statistically significant.
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