Keying forest stream protection to aquatic ecosystem values in multi-ownership watersheds Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/7h149t13h

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  • Forested lands of western Oregon provide aquatic habitat for many fish and riparian dependent species, including a wide variety of salmon species. Current policies set riparian protections using fixed buffers on streams for federal and private lands based on stream type or size. These buffers can create a series of disjointed riparian protections, as federal lands require buffers that are much larger than private lands. In addition, the fixed buffer approach is neither flexible nor tailored to aquatic ecosystem values. This thesis presents a framework for comprehensively assessing stream networks using site specific watershed features and then suggests riparian conservation strategies that key stream and riparian protection to aquatic ecosystem values. Seven study watersheds were used in this analysis, totaling over 2.5 million acres of forested lands in western Oregon. Employing a set of geospatial tools, called NetMap, streams in each watershed were classified into higher and lower priorities using criteria of intrinsic potential, erosion/debris flow susceptibility, and thermal loading potential. Results demonstrated the inherent variability within and among watersheds based on the geomorphic and ecological processes determined important for selected salmon species. Within each watershed, both federal and non-federal lands had many miles of higher priority fish-bearing and non-fish bearing streams, suggesting the need for comprehensive, holistic watershed conservation strategies. Based on the partitioning of streams into higher and lower priorities, an alternative riparian conservation strategy was then modeled for federal lands that allocate protection on the basis of the ecological context of a stream segment’s potential and particular location while still meeting federal aquatic conservation goals and objectives. Possible increases to the land base for long-term timber production were then identified if this strategy were applied to federal Matrix lands. Results demonstrated that 8-30 percent of the current riparian buffers could be reallocated to the land base for long-term timber production. An additional 26-45 percent of current buffers could be managed simultaneously for both timber production and aquatic ecosystem goals. Results also provided a framework for targeting of conservation and restoration efforts towards higher priority streams within each watershed. As many of the most ecologically important streams were located on non-federal lands, riparian conservation policies focused on streams classified as higher priority on those lands may be needed to protect aquatic species and their environments.
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