Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Malanson, George P.

First Committee Member

Linderman, Marc

Second Committee Member

Sander, Heather


Avalanche paths are unique ecosystems that represent a significant portion of the landscape in the northern Rocky Mountains. Frequent avalanche disturbance results in vegetative cover that is unlike the adjacent coniferous forest. These high relief environments have the potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere at rates differing from those of the surrounding forest, and to regulate matter and/or energy fluxes to downslope ecosystems.

This thesis attempts to estimate organic carbon on south-facing avalanche paths in the southern portion of Glacier National Park, Montana. I am specifically interested in total organic carbon density, compartmental carbon density, and change in organic carbon over time as a function of shrub and tree diameter. Using an integrated sampling method, estimates of total organic carbon on avalanche paths appear to be different than those of the adjacent forest and similar to those of other shrub formation types in the area. However, the potentially moveable litter compartment is consistently larger. Organic carbon from shrub and trees growing on paths appears to be increasing at a continuous rate leading up to disturbance, while a typical individual's rate of increase appears to be slowing. The organic material temporarily stored on avalanche paths could serve as an important outside carbon source for near and distant aquatic ecosystems.


avalanche paths, biomass, conduit, keystone ecosystem, organic carbon


viii, 92 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 84-91).


Copyright 2014 Thomas James Williams

Included in

Geography Commons