, Volume 717, Issue 1, pp 119–131 | Cite as

Effects of wood removal on stream habitat and nitrate uptake in two northeastern US headwater streams

  • Dana R. WarrenEmail author
  • Kristin E. Judd
  • Darren L. Bade
  • Gene E. Likens
  • Clifford E. Kraft
Primary Research Paper


Forested headwater streams play an important role in watershed nutrient dynamics, and wood is thought to be a key factor influencing habitat structure and nitrate-nitrogen dynamics in many forested streams. Because wood in streams can promote nitrogen uptake through denitrification, we hypothesized that nitrate uptake velocities would decrease following wood removal. We measured stream characteristics and nitrate uptake velocities before and after wood manipulation experiments conducted at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH, and the Sleepers River watershed, VT. The mean size of stream substrates and the amount of riffle habitat increased following wood removal. In contrast to our expectations, summer nitrate uptake velocities increased in the wood removal treatments relative to the reference treatments, possibly because wood removal increased the availability of stable substrates for periphyton growth, therefore increasing nitrate demand in these streams. Our results highlight that effects of wood on stream ecosystems occur through multiple pathways and suggest that the relative importance of these pathways may vary seasonally.


Large wood Debris dam Hubbard Brook Nitrogen cycling BACI Stream substrate 



We thank Natalie Day, Allison Fritz-Penniman, Madeleine Mineau, and Jared Nunery for their help in stream and laboratory analyses. We thank Art Casselman of the Cornell University Stable Isotope Laboratory and Jeffery Merriam of the University of New Hampshire’s Water Quality Analysis Laboratory for their help in facilitating sample analysis. We thank Steven Thomas, Emily Bernhardt, and Emma Rosi-Marshall for their contributions and help with N uptake set-up and data analysis. Comments from Jason Demers, Timothy Fahey, Alex Flecker, Christine Goodale, Jim Lassoie, Julie Pett-Ridge, and two anonymous reviewers improved this manuscript substantially. We thank Ian Halm (USFS), Donald Buso (CIES), and Geoff Wilson (HBRF) for their help at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, and Jamie Shanley (USGS) and Lenny Gerardi (VT fish and wildlife) for help and access at Sleepers River. Funding for this research was provided by the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship program, by a USDA Forest Service NSRC grant, by the McIntire-Stennis Forest Research Program, and by the Cornell Biogeochemistry and Environmental Biocomplexity NSF IGERT Grant (NSF DGE-0221658). This publication does not reflect the view of any sponsoring agency. The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is operated and maintained by the US Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA.

Supplementary material

10750_2013_1578_MOESM1_ESM.doc (346 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 217 kb)


  1. Aumen, N. G., C. P. Hawkins & S. V. Gregory, 1990. Influence of woody debris on nutrient retention in catastrophically disturbed streams. Hydrobiologia 190: 183–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernal, S., L. O. Hedin, G. E. Likens, S. Gerber & D. C. Buso, 2012. Complex response of the forest nitrogen cycle to climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 3406–3411.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernhardt, E. S. & G. E. Likens, 2002. Dissolved organic carbon enrichment alters nitrogen dynamics in a forest stream. Ecology 83: 1689–1700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernhardt, E. S. & G. E. Likens, 2004. Controls on periphyton biomass in heterotrophic streams. Freshwater Biology 49: 14–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernhardt, E. S., R. O. J. Hall & G. E. Likens, 2002. Whole-system estimates of nitrification and nitrate uptake in streams of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Ecosystems 5: 419–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bernhardt, E. S., G. E. Likens, C. T. Driscoll & D. C. Buso, 2003. In-stream uptake dampens effects of major forest disturbance on watershed nitrogen export. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100: 10304–10308.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernhardt, E. S., G. E. Likens, R. O. Hall, D. C. Buso, S. G. Fisher, T. M. Burton, J. L. Meyer, M. H. McDowell, M. S. Mayer, W. B. Bowden, S. E. G. Findlay, K. H. Macneale, R. Stelzer & W. H. Lowe, 2005a. Can’t see the forest for the stream? – In-stream processing and terrestrial nitrogen exports. Bioscience 55: 219–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bernhardt, E. S., M. A. Palmer, J. D. Allan, G. Alexander, K. Barnas, S. Brooks, J. Carr, S. Clayton, C. Dahm, J. Follstad-Shah, D. Galat, S. Gloss, P. Goodwin, D. Hart, B. Hassett, R. Jenkinson, S. Katz, G. M. Kondolf, P. S. Lake, R. Lave, J. L. Meyer, T. K. O’Donnell, L. Pagano, B. Powell & E. Sudduth, 2005b. Synthesizing US river restoration efforts. Science 308: 636–637.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bilby, R. E., 1981. Role of organic debris dams in regulating the export of dissolved and particulate matter from a forested watershed. Ecology 62: 1234–1243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bilby, R. E. & G. E. Likens, 1980. Importance of organic debris dams in the structure and function of stream ecosystems. Ecology 61: 1107–1113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brookshire, J. E. N., H. M. Valett, S. A. Thomas & J. R. Webster, 2005. Coupled cycling of dissolved organic nitrogen and carbon in a forest stream. Ecology 86: 2487–2496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diez, J. R., S. Larranaga, A. Elosegi & J. Pozo, 2000. Effect of removal of wood on streambed stability and retention of organic matter. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 19: 621–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ensign, S. H. & M. W. Doyle, 2005. In-channel transient storage and associated nutrient retention: evidence from experimental manipulations. Limnology and Oceanography 50: 1740–1751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fisher, S. G. & G. E. Likens, 1972. Stream ecosystem – organic energy budget. Bioscience 22: 33–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher, S. G. & G. E. Likens, 1973. Energy flow in bear brook, New Hampshire – integrative approach to stream ecosystem metabolism. Ecological Monographs 43: 421–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gomi, T., A. C. Johnson, R. L. Deal, P. E. Hennon, E. H. Orlikowska & M. S. Wipfli, 2006. Factors affecting distribution of wood, detritus, and sediment in headwater streams draining managed young-growth red alder – conifer forests in southeast Alaska. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 725–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gregory, S. V., F. J. Swanson, W. A. McKee & K. W. Cummins, 1991. An ecosystem perspective on riparian zones focus on links between land and water. Bioscience 41: 540–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gurnell, A. M., H. Piegay, F. J. Swanson & S. V. Gregory, 2002. Large wood and fluvial processes. Freshwater Biology 47: 601–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gurnell, A., K. Tockner, P. Edwards & G. Petts, 2005. Effects of deposited wood on biocomplexity of river corridors. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 377–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hall, R. O. & J. L. Tank, 2003. Ecosystem metabolism controls nitrogen uptake in streams in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Limnology and Oceanography 48: 1120–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hoellein, T. J., J. L. Tank, E. J. Rosi-Marshall, S. A. Entrekin & G. A. Lamberti, 2007. Controls on spatial and temporal variation of nutrient uptake in three Michigan headwater streams. Limnology and Oceanography 52: 1964–1977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hornbeck, J. W., S. W. Bailey, D. C. Buso & J. B. Shanley, 1997. Streamwater chemistry and nutrient budgets for forested watersheds in New England: variability and management implications. Forest Ecology and Management 93: 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson, L. T. & J. L. Tank, 2009. Diurnal variations in dissolved organic matter and ammonium uptake in six open-canopy streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 28: 694–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Likens, G. E. & R. E. Bilby, 1982. Development, maintenance and role of organic-debris dams in New England streams. In Swanson, F. J., R. J. Janda, T. Dunne & D. W. Swanston (eds), Sediment Budgets and Routing in Forested Drainage Basins. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-141: 122–128.Google Scholar
  25. Likens, G. E. & H. F. Bormann, 1995. Biogeochemistry of a Forested Ecosystem: Second Edition. Springer-Verlag, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Likens, G. E. & D. C. Buso, 2006. Variation in streamwater chemistry throughout the Hubbard Brook Valley. Biogeochemistry 78: 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marti, E. & F. Sabater, 1996. High variability in temporal and spatial nutrient retention in Mediterranean streams. Ecology 77: 854–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Montgomery, D. R., J. M. Buffington, R. D. Smith, K. M. Schmidt & G. Pess, 1995. Pool spacing in forest channels. Water Resources Research 31: 1097–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mulholland, P. J., H. M. Valett, J. R. Webster, S. A. Thomas, L. W. Cooper, S. K. Hamilton & B. J. Peterson, 2004. Stream denitrification and total nitrate uptake rates measured using a field N-15 tracer addition approach. Limnology and Oceanography 49: 809–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mulholland, P. J., A. M. Helton, G. C. Poole, R. O. Hall, S. K. Hamilton, B. J. Peterson, J. L. Tank, L. R. Ashkenas, L. W. Cooper, C. N. Dahm, W. K. Dodds, S. E. G. Findlay, S. V. Gregory, N. B. Grimm, S. L. Johnson, W. H. McDowell, J. L. Meyer, H. M. Valett, J. R. Webster, C. P. Arango, J. J. Beaulieu, M. J. Bernot, A. J. Burgin, C. L. Crenshaw, L. T. Johnson, B. R. Niederlehner, J. M. O’Brien, J. D. Potter, R. W. Sheibley, D. J. Sobota & S. M. Thomas, 2008. Stream denitrification across biomes and its response to anthropogenic nitrate loading. Nature 452: 202–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Munn, N. L. & J. L. Meyer, 1990. Habitat-specific solute retention in 2 small streams – an intersite comparison. Ecology 71: 2069–2082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Newbold, J. D., J. W. Elwood, R. V. O’Neil & W. Van Winkle, 1981. Measuring nutrient spiraling in streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 38: 860–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Newbold, J. D., T. L. Bott, L. A. Kaplan, C. L. Dow, J. K. Jackson, A. K. Aufdenkampe, L. A. Martin, D. J. Van Horn & A. A. de Long, 2006. Uptake of nutrients and organic C in streams in New York City drinking-water-supply watersheds. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 25: 998–1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peterson, B. J., W. M. Wollheim, P. J. Mulholland, J. R. Webster, J. L. Meyer, J. L. Tank, E. Marti, W. B. Bowden, H. M. Valett, A. E. Hershey, W. H. McDowell, W. K. Dodds, S. K. Hamilton, S. Gregory & D. D. Morrall, 2001. Control of nitrogen export from watersheds by headwater streams. Science 292: 86–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roberts, B. J. & P. J. Mulholland, 2007. In-stream biotic control on nutrient biogeochemistry in a forested stream, West Fork of Walker Branch. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences 112: G04002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roberts, B. J., P. J. Mulholland & W. R. Hill, 2007a. Multiple scales of temporal variability in ecosystem metabolism rates: results from 2 years of continuous monitoring in a forested headwater stream. Ecosystems 10: 588–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Roberts, B. J., P. J. Mulholland & J. N. Houser, 2007b. Effects of upland disturbance and instream restoration on hydrodynamics and ammonium uptake in headwater streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 26: 38–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sabater, F., A. Butturini, E. Marti, I. Munoz, A. Romani, J. Wray & S. Sabater, 2000. Effects of riparian vegetation removal on nutrient retention in a Mediterranean stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 19: 609–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sigman, D. M., M. A. Altabet, R. Michener, D. C. McCorkle, B. Fry & R. M. Holmes, 1997. Natural abundance-level measurement of the nitrogen isotopic composition of oceanic nitrate: an adaptation of the ammonia diffusion method. Marine Chemistry 57: 227–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Steinhart, G. S., G. E. Likens & P. M. Groffman, 2000. Denitrification in stream sediments in five northeastern (USA) streams. Verhandlungen des Internationalen Verein Limnologie 27: 1331–1336.Google Scholar
  41. Stewart-Oaten, A., W. W. Murdoch & K. R. Parker, 1986. Environmental-impact assessment – pseudoreplication in time. Ecology 67: 929–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stream Solute Workshop, 1990. Concepts and methods for assessing solute dynamics in stream ecosystems. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 9: 95–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tank, J. L., J. L. Meyer, D. M. Sanzone, P. J. Mulholland, J. R. Webster, B. J. Peterson, W. M. Wollheim & N. E. Leonard, 2000. Analysis of nitrogen cycling in a forest stream during autumn using a N-15-tracer addition. Limnology and Oceanography 45: 1013–1029.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thompson, D. M., 1995. The effects of large organic debris on sediment processes and stream morphology in Vermont. Geomorphology 11: 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Valett, H. M., J. A. Morrice, C. N. Dahm & M. E. Campana, 1996. Parent lithology, surface-groundwater exchange, and nitrate retention in headwater streams. Limnology and Oceanography 41: 333–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wallace, J. B., S. L. Eggert, J. L. Meyer & J. R. Webster, 1997. Multiple trophic levels of a forest streams linked to terrestrial litter inputs. Science 277: 102–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Warren, D. R., E. S. Bernhardt, R. O. J. Hall & G. E. Likens, 2007. Forest age, wood, and nutrient dynamics in headwater streams of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 32: 1154–1163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Warren, D. R., C. E. Kraft, W. S. Keeton, J. S. Nunery, G. E. Likens, 2009. Dynamics of wood recruitment in streams of the northeastern U.S. Forest Ecology and Management 258: 804–813.Google Scholar
  49. Webster, J. R., J. L. Tank, J. B. Wallace, J. L. Meyer, S. L. Eggert, T. P. Ehrman, B. R. Ward, B. L. Bennet, P. F. Wagner & M. E. McTammy, 2000. Effects of litter exclusion and wood removal on phosphorous and nitrogen retention in a forest stream. Verhandlungen des Internationalen Verein Limnologie 27: 1337–1340.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana R. Warren
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Kristin E. Judd
    • 2
    • 4
  • Darren L. Bade
    • 2
    • 5
  • Gene E. Likens
    • 2
    • 6
    • 7
  • Clifford E. Kraft
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesKent State UniversityKentUSA
  6. 6.Department of E & EBUniversity of Connecticut-StorrsStorrsUSA
  7. 7.Department of LimnologyEBC-Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations