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Hydrologic and Erosional Responses of a Granitic Watershed to Helicopter Logging and Broadcast Burning

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Forest land managers are concerned about the effects of logging and site preparation on erosion, site productivity, streamflow, and water quality. Effects of helicopter logging and prescribed burning on streamflow and sediment yields from headwater drainages in the Idaho Batholith were evaluated, using paired watersheds monitored from 1966 to 1986. In the fall of 1976, 23% of a 162 ha watershed was clearcut. All the cutting units were located on south-facing slopes. Helicopter logging was followed by broadcast burning on the cutting units. Streamflow parameters showed little change in response to the logging and burning. However, total annual sediment yields on the treated watershed increased an average of 97% in the 10 yr following logging, with the largest increases occurring in the years of highest sediment yields. Increased sediment yields did not appear to result from accelerated channel erosion; rather, about 94% was attributed to accelerated surface erosion on the cutting units, and 6% was contributed by a single mass erosion site. Accelerated erosion persisted on the cutting units throughout the study period. The accelerated surface erosion occurred primarily as a result of the prescribed burning (rather than the helicopter logging); surface erosion rates on the burned areas were about 66 times greater than those on undisturbed slopes. The accelerated rates of erosion and sedimentation have potentially serious implications for on-site productivity and downstream resources. For. Sci. 41(4):777-795.
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Keywords: Streamflow; mass erosion; sedimentation; site productivity; surface erosion

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Hydrologist, USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 316 E. Myrtle St., Boise, ID 83702

Publication date: 01 November 1995

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