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Operational Forest Stream Crossings Effects on Water Quality in the Virginia Piedmont

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Water quality indices were examined for paired upstream and downstream samples for 23 operational stream crossings and approaches during four periods. Stream crossings were (1) portable bridges (BRIDGE), (2) culverts backfilled with poles (POLE), (3) culverts with earth backfill (CULVERT), and (4) reinforced fords (FORD). The four operational periods were (1) prior to crossing installation (INITIAL), (2) after installation (INSTALL), (3) during harvest (HARVEST), and (4) after road closure (CLOSURE). Differences (Δ) in water samples collected above and below stream crossings were analyzed for Δtotal dissolved solids (ΔTDS), ΔpH, Δconductivity, Δtemperature, and Δsediment concentration. Data were analyzed as a completely randomized design with unequal replication (four to seven replications). Significant differences were observed (α < 0.10) among crossing types for Δtemperature, ΔTDS, ΔpH, and Δconductivity. Overall, the least disruptive crossing type for water quality was BRIDGE, but road standards and approach characteristics were also important. Modeled estimates of erosion demonstrated that CULVERT approaches had higher potential erosion than other crossings. Water quality parameters were most negatively affected during INSTALL and HARVEST and were apparently improving during CLOSURE. Permanent crossings were associated with significantly greater temperatures than temporary crossings, likely because of increased width of streamside management zone removal. Water quality effects could be minimized by installing appropriate best management practices during all harvest periods rather than waiting until CLOSURE. Findings should be used cautiously because individual site factors such as climate, site, soil, and operational variability will alter effects.
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Keywords: forest roads; forestry best management practices; stream crossings; water quality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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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 Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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