The broad-scale mortality of Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) from the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has deforested sizable proportions of many watersheds in the Black Hills of western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. The implications to streamflow characteristics, water quality, and watershed ecology of this scale of vegetative type change are not well-defined for the Black Hills area. Remote sensing, including aerial photography and Landsat imagery, is being used to track the forest cover change. These data are coupled with ground-based information, such as stream flow data, to monitor watershed impacts.
One of the types of sensors being used to capture the data. This photo shows a streamflow gage that measures water level or stage. Stage is then converted to discharge using a stage-discharge rating curve. On the pole is a solar panel that charges the battery. Above the panel is the transmitting antenna which communicates with the satellite to send data to the Internet in real time. The red trees on the hillside behind the gage are ponderosa pine trees recently killed by mountain pine beetles. If enough trees die, the water yield will increase streamflow at the gage.