Declining Woody Vegetation in Riparian Ecosystems of the Western United States

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Riparian ecosystems serve critical ecological functions in western landscapes. The woody plant components in many of these keystone systems are in serious decline. Among the causes are invasion by exotic species, stress-induced mortality, increases in insect and disease attack, drought, beaver, fire, climatic changes, and various anthropogenic activities. The latter include agricultural development, groundwater depletion, dam construction, water diversion, gravel mining, timber harvesting, recreation, urbanization, and grazing. This article examines the factors implicated in the decline and discusses the importance of interactions among these factors in causing decline. It also clarifies issues that need to be addressed in order to restore and maintain sustainable riparian ecosystems in the western United States, including the function of vegetation, silvics of the woody plant species involved, hydrologic condition, riparian zone structure, and landscape features, geomorphology, and management objectives. West. J. Appl. For. 16(4):169-181.

Keywords: Insects; dams; diseases; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; grazing; invasive species; logging; mining; natural resource management; natural resources; recreation; water diversion

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: USDA Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot NF, Vancouver, WA, 98682 2: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001

Publication date: October 1, 2001

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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 Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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