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The Effectiveness of Different Buffer Widths for Protecting Headwater Stream Temperature in Maine

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We evaluated the effect of timber harvesting on summer water temperature in first-order headwater streams in western Maine. Fifteen streams were assigned to one of five treatments: (1) clearcutting with no stream buffer; (2) clearcutting with 11-m, partially harvested buffers, both sides; (3) clearcutting with 23-m, partially harvested buffers; (4) partial cuts with no designated buffer; and (5) unharvested controls. Over a 3-year period we measured summer water temperature hourly before and after harvesting, above and below the harvest zone. Streams without a buffer showed the greatest increase in mean weekly maximum temperatures following harvesting (1.4–4.4°C). Streams with an 11-m buffer showed minor, but not significant, increases (1.0–1.4°C). Streams with a 23-m buffer, partial-harvest treatment, and control streams showed no changes following harvest. The mean weekly maximum temperatures never exceeded the thermal stress limit for brook trout (25°C) in any treatment group. The mean daily temperature fluctuations for streams without buffers increased from 1.5°C/day to 3.8°C/day, while with 11-m buffers fluctuations increased nonsignificantly by 0.5–0.7°C/day. Water temperatures 100 m below the harvest zone in the no-buffer treatment were elevated above preharvest levels. We concluded that water temperature in small headwater streams is protected from the effects of clearcutting by an 11-m buffer (with >60% canopy retention).
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Keywords: Headwater stream; buffer width; forest practices; riparian buffers; water temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
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