OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Local & Downstream Impacts of Contemporary Forest Harvesting Practices on Watershed Hydrology

Zègre, N.
Apr-18-2013

This study measured the impacts of two harvest entries on the monthly streamflow and other measures of the streams below and adjacent to harvest.  Statistically significant increases in sediment yield, as suspended sediment, were detected as a consequence of timber harvest in the South Fork Hinkle Creek. These increases were detected at the small, headwater watershed scale as well as the large watershed scale. Unlike the increases in water yield, these increases were not consistent with the literature. The results of the seminal paired watershed studies showed very large increases in sediment yield, often as much as two or three times greater than sediment yields before timber harvest. The results from contemporary forest practices are much more muted and the increases are in the range of 20 to 30 percent increases in sediment yield. The increases are in order with and correlate well with the increases in water yield. That the increases in sediment yield are a result of increased stream power due to increases in water yield is a reasonable hypothesis to put forward to explain these observations. The greatest improvement in forest practices over the past several decades were directed toward reducing the impacts of timber harvest on sediment yield. These improvements include; clearcut size limits and adjacency constraints, improved yarding systems (in this case slackline, skyline cable systems), the prescription of buffer strips, and changes in site preparation practices.

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