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Management of Riparian Buffers: Upslope Thinning with Downslope Impacts Public Deposited

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  • We examined the potential of using upslope density management to influence growth and drought tolerance of trees in untreated downslope riparian forests. Increment cores from Douglas-fir trees in three mature stands in western Oregon, USA, were collected and measured. Trees responded to an apparent edge effect up to 15 m downslope of thinned areas but not downslope of gaps. Growth responses in riparian trees were not affected by slope or potential solar radiation (as a function of location and topography). In addition, in a retrospective analysis of tree growth and allocation patterns (represented by the ratio of earlywood to latewood) and climate after treatment over a 12-year period, trees in our study area did not appear to be water limited and did not show a strong correlation with regional drought metrics. We hypothesize that vegetation layers in these riparian forest stands responded differentially to additional resources becoming available as a result of thinning, with overstory trees in riparian areas responding downslope of thinned uplands and subdominant canopy layers responding downslope of gaps. Our study demonstrates that managers can affect riparian forests with upland treatments to a limited spatial extent, which may be the only option in areas where direct riparian management is restricted due to concerns for other ecosystem services.
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  • Ruzicka, K. J., Puettmann, K. J., & Olson, D. H. (2014). Management of Riparian Buffers: Upslope Thinning with Downslope Impacts. Forest Science, 60(5), 881-892. doi:10.5849/forsci.13-107
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  • Our research was supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Edmund Hayes Silvicultural Fellowship.
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