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Effects of Selective Forest Harvesting on Organic Matter Inputs and Accumulation in Headwater Streams

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Organic matter inputs and accumulation were measured in streams of low-order forest watersheds across a gradient of selective harvesting with no protective riparian buffers assigned. Comparisons were made among sites in selection-cut (average 29% basal area removal), shelterwood-cut (average 42% basal area removal), diameter limit-cut (average 89% basal area removal), and undisturbed tolerant hardwood catchments. The diameter limit harvest was an intentionally high-disturbance treatment and is not a normal silvicultural prescription for tolerant hardwoods in Ontario. Time trend analyses were conducted to examine differences among sites over a pre- and postharvest experimental period. Selection-based harvesting at up to 42% basal area removal with no riparian buffers did not significantly alter average over-stream canopy cover, leaf litter and other organic matter inputs, benthic particulate organic matter accumulation, or woody debris abundance. Harvesting impacts on over-stream canopy cover and organic matter inputs appeared to be minimized by natural crown architecture (overlap in crowns of over-stream trees, residual mid-crown canopy) and by careful logging practices including retention of many immediate streamside trees (within a few meters of the stream channel) and avoidance of felling directly into the streams. Dissolved organic matter fluxes increased slightly for 1 year after harvest and were associated with increased water yield. At the diameter limit harvesting intensity (about 89% basal area removal), significant effects on organic matter inputs and accumulation in streams were detected. The results indicate that selective harvesting of hardwood forests at up to about 42% basal area removal can be conducted without causing significant reductions in organic matter inputs and accumulation in headwater streams, even without prescribed streamside buffer strips.

Keywords: Selective logging; headwater streams; impacts; organic matter

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: Natural Resources Canada Canadian Forest Service 1219 Queen Street East Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada P6A 2E5

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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