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Riparian canopy type, management history, and successional stage control fluxes of plant litter to streams

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The food webs of forest stream ecosystems are based primarily on cross-boundary flows of terrestrial plant litter (PL). As such, changes in the composition of riparian forest canopies can alter flows of PL, affecting the ecosystem functioning of adjacent streams. We measured seasonal changes in PL fluxes to 20 small streams flowing through temperate rain forests in southwestern British Columbia to determine how riparian forest type and riparian management history influence resource availability in these systems. Differences in PL fluxes among the four riparian forest types studied were most pronounced in the summer, when PL fluxes from clearcuts < riparian reserve strips and coniferous forests, and PL fluxes from deciduous-dominated forests < riparian reserve strips. PL fluxes also varied among seasons (spring < summer < autumn). Fluxes were similar in riparian reserve strips and coniferous forests of similar age, indicating that reserve strips maintain this crucial ecosystem process. Clearcutting of riparian forests dramatically increased light availability while reducing leaf litter inputs; these effects, however, lasted only a few years. As riparian forest stand age increased, inputs shifted from broadleaf to coniferous inputs, indicating a possible long-term decrease in the lability of the leaf litter resources available to stream consumers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 5, 2011

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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