The Effectiveness of Different Buffer Widths for Protecting Headwater Stream Temperature in Maine
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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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2006-06-01
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