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Avalanche Activity and Plant Biodiversity in the Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Macey Tilk

The Wasatch Mountains of Utah are widely known for their steep vertical relief and significant seasonal snowpack. These two factors create dangerous conditions during winter storms in which the probability of an avalanche occurring increases. Physical factors such as temperature, snowpack depth, amount of relief and slope orientation are important considerations for avalanche risk, however, what's happening below the snow on the ground may be just as important. Limited research has been conducted on the impact to plant diversity and how seasonal avalanche cycles may influence biodiversity over space and time. This study explores several well-known avalanche chutes to see if avalanche frequency plays a role in biodiversity. To study this, vegetation communities were studied through line transects perpendicular to avalanche paths. Species inventories were collected along each transect and were categorized into six dominant vegetation types (herb, forb, grass, shrub, juvenile tree, adult tree) to provide an index of community diversity. Maps were then created to capture the frequency of avalanches in each research site. Surprisingly, data analysis of community plant diversity in three study sites suggest that the higher frequency avalanche chutes contain higher biodiversity while less active chutes had lower biodiversity.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #D81
SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Mitchell Power