The Hinkle Creek Paired Watershed Study
Cumulative Environmental Effects of Contemporary Forest Management Activities in Headwater Basins of Western Oregon
Study Leaders: Arne E. Skaugset, OSU Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management Department; Judith Li, OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Kermit Cromack, OSU Forest Ecosystems and Society Department; and Robert E. Gresswell and Michael Adams, U.S. Geological Survey.
The majority of the timber harvest in the Pacific Northwest comes from the minority of the forested land base owned by the private industrial forest sector. Society is more dependent than ever on the productivity and culture of these forestlands for a continued supply of solid wood. One potential obstacle is concern regarding the environmental effects of intensive management of these lands. The concern results from a lack of knowledge regarding the actual environmental effects caused by contemporary forest management activities at a watershed scale.
Designed and initiated to fill that gap in knowledge, The Hinkle Creek Paired Watershed Study is being conducted on lands owned by Roseburg Forest Products (RFP), which actively manages the young, harvest-regenerated stands of Douglas-fir. At Hinkle Creek, the landowner, a group of researchers and private industrial, state, and federal forestland managers collaborated to develop a state-of-the-art paired watershed study. The study includes a control watershed, the North Fork of Hinkle Creek, and a treatment watershed, the South Fork. The planned harvest schedule allows comparisons before and after harvest as well as between harvested and unharvested streams and for small and large streams with and without fish. The research in these watersheds will address the:
- effects of forest management on the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics and habitat quality in small streams without fish,
- influence of changes in the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics and habitat quality on amphibian and invertebrate abundance, distribution, and movement, in headwater streams with and without fish, and
- role of movement in maintaining abundance and diversity of fish and amphibians as habitat quality changes throughout the stream network.
Considerable research on the environmental effects of forestry has been conducted using paired watershed studies, resulting in substantial knowledge. However, the congruence of recent technological innovations and the location of this study provide an excellent opportunity to increase the understanding of the environmental consequences of management of forested watersheds significantly.
The research approach will employ a new generation of sensors including passive integrated transponders, which allow daily and seasonal tracking of the movement of fish using stationary readers as well as mobile antenna. Detailed and continuous measurement of discharge, temperature, and sediment load at spatially explicit locations will put the movement of the fish into a physical context. Finally, recent innovations in geographic information systems technologies allow the spatially dynamic interactions between the physical and biological phenomena to be described.
These advances in technology combined with the willingness of the landowner to allow them to be used in a managed landscape will set a new standard for what we can learn and how we may be able to truly better understand the environmental effects of forest management at a watershed and landscape scale.
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