The influence of contemporary forest management on stream nutrient concentrations in an industrialized forest in the Oregon Cascades Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/n870zt99c

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  • The increased demand for wood and fiber from a continually shrinking land base has resulted in the use of intensively managed forest plantations. The concentration of timber production on the most suitable sites allows the world's demand for forest products to be met on less land and enable native forests to be conserved. Because much of the water flowing in rivers in the U.S. originates as precipitation in forests, there is a justified concern about the impacts of forest management on water quality. Nutrient concentrations were measured in eight streams from October 2002 to September 2011 to assess nutrient response to contemporary forest practices at the Hinkle Creek Paired Watershed Study in the Oregon Cascades. This period of time included a two-year pre-treatment calibration between control and treatment watersheds, a fertilization treatment of both basins in October 2004, and a post-treatment period from 2005 to 2011. A treatment schedule comprised of two temporally explicit harvest entries was used to assess the effects of clearcutting at the non-fish-bearing headwater scale and the fish-bearing watershed scale. Stream water samples were analyzed for nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, sulfate, chloride, and silicon as well as specific conductance, pH, and alkalinity. Programmable water samplers were used to take water samples during fall freshets in November 2009 to assess the stream water discharge versus NO₃ + NO₂ concentration relationship. All treatment watersheds showed a statistically significant increase in NO₃ + NO₂ concentrations after clearcutting (p < 0.001). The slope of the streambed through the disturbance was a stronger predictor of the magnitude of the response than was the magnitude of disturbance. Ammonia and organic nitrogen displayed notable increases after harvest treatment, but these increases were attributed to increases in the control watersheds. Phosphorus showed a response to timber harvest in one headwater stream. The remaining nutrients showed a small decrease in the control and treatment watersheds for the period after harvest. There was some evidence to suggest that the addition of urea nitrogen to both basins may have caused an increase in in-stream biota uptake of these nutrients. The storm response results showed that NO₃ + NO₂ concentrations in stream water increase with discharge during small storms that occur after periods of negligible precipitation. Concentrations of NO₃ + NO₂ observed during the calibration period were similar to concentrations observed in an old-growth forest in the H.J. Andrews, suggesting that nutrient processing within the Hinkle Creek watershed had returned to levels that existed prior to its initial harvest sixty years ago. This finding helps to assess long-term impacts of shorter rotation timber harvest of regenerated Douglas-fir stands characteristic of industrialized timber harvest in Oregon.
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