Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 31-41

First online:

Effects of Forest Management Practices on Mid-Atlantic Streams

  • Kent W. ThorntonAffiliated withFTN Associates, Ltd.
  • , Shannon P. HolbrookAffiliated withFTN Associates, Ltd.
  • , Kenneth L. StolteAffiliated withForest Health Monitoring, U.S. Forest Service, Forest Sciences Laboratory
  • , Ronald B. LandyAffiliated withU.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3

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Agricultural and urban land use activities have affected stream ecosystems throughout the mid-Atlantic region. However, over 60% of the mid-Atlantic region is forested. A study was conducted to investigate the effects of management practices on forested stream ecosystems throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The study consisted of two phases: Phase 1 was a literature synthesis of information available on the effects of forest management practices on stream hydrology, erosion and sedimentation, riparian habitat alteration, chemical addition, and change in biotic diversity in the mid-Atlantic region. In Phase 2, data from mid-Atlantic streams were analyzed to assess the effects of forest land use on stream quality at the regional scale. Typically, it is the larger order streams in which monitoring and assessment occurs—3rd order or higher streams. The impacts of forest management practices, particularly hydrologic modifications and riparian buffer zone alteration, occur predominantly in first and second order streams with cumulative impacts translating to higher order streams. Based on the literature review and mid-Atlantic Highland streams analysis, there are short-term (e.g., 2 to 5 years) effects of forest management practices on stream quality at local scales. However, signatures of cumulative effects from forest management practices are not apparent at regional scales in the Highlands. In general, forested land use is associated with good stream quality in the region compared with other land use practices.