, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 218–233 | Cite as

Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Carbon, and Suspended Solids Loads from Forest Clear-Cutting and Site Preparation: Long-Term Paired Catchment Studies from Eastern Finland

  • Marjo Palviainen
  • Leena Finér
  • Ari Laurén
  • Samuli Launiainen
  • Sirpa Piirainen
  • Tuija Mattsson
  • Mike Starr


The long-term impacts of current forest management methods on surface water quality in Fennoscandia are largely unexplored. We studied the long-term effects of clear-cutting and site preparation on runoff and the export of total nitrogen (total N), total organic nitrogen (TON), ammonium (NH4-N), nitrate (NO3-N), total phosphorus (total P), phosphate (PO4-P), total organic carbon, and suspended solids (SS) in three paired-catchments in Eastern Finland. Clear-cutting and soil preparation were carried out on 34 % (C34), 11 % (C11), and 8 % (C8) of the area of the treated catchments and wide buffer zones were left along the streams. Clear-cutting and soil preparation increased annual runoff and total N, TON, NO3-N, PO4-P, and SS loads, except for SS, only in C34. Runoff increased by 16 % and the annual exports of total N, TON, NO3-N, and PO4-P by 18, 12, 270, and 12 %, respectively, during the 14-year period after clear-cutting. SS export increased by 291 % in C34, 134 % in C11, and 16 % in C8 during the 14, 6, and 11-year periods after clear-cutting. In the C11 catchment, NO3-N export decreased by 12 %. The results indicate that while current forest management practices can increase the export of N, P and SS from boreal catchments for many years (>10 years), the increases are only significant when the area of clear cutting exceeds 30 % of catchment area.


Catchment Final cutting Leaching Soil preparation Water quality 



This long-term study has been financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Finnish Forest Research Institute, the Finnish Environment Institute, the University of Joensuu and the Forest cluster Ltd. We would like to thank Ms Marketta Ahtiainen and Prof. (emer.) Hannu Mannerkoski for their contribution in the project. We also thank the Finnish Forest and Park Service for providing the study sites and the staff of the Finnish Forest Research Institute and the Finnish Environment Institute for help in carrying out the field work and laboratory analyses.


  1. Abdelnour, A., M. Stieglitz, F. Pan, and R. McKane. 2011. Catchment hydrological responses to forest harvest amount and spatial pattern. Water Resources Research 47: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahtiainen, M. 1990. Avohakkuun ja metsäojituksen vaikutukset purovesien laatuun. Vesi- ja Ympäristöhallituksen julkaisuja- sarja A 45, 122 pp. Helsinki: Vesi- ja Ympäristöhallitus.Google Scholar
  3. Ahtiainen, M., and P. Huttunen. 1999. Long-term effects of forestry managements on water quality and loading in brooks. Boreal Environment Research 4: 101–114.Google Scholar
  4. Akselsson, C., O. Westling, and G. Örlander. 2004. Regional mapping of nitrogen leaching from clearcuts in southern Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management 202: 235–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arheimer, B., L. Andersson, and A. Lepistö. 1996. Variation of nitrogen concentration in forest streams—Influences of flow, seasonality and catchment characteristics. Journal of Hydrology 179: 281–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bosch, J.R., and J.D. Hewlett. 1982. A review of catchment experiments to determine the effect of vegetation change on water yield and evapotranspiration. Journal of Hydrology 55: 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bredemeier, M., K. Blanck, Y.-J. Xu, A. Tietema, A.W. Boxman, B. Emmett, F. Moldan, P. Gundersen, et al. 1998. Input–output budgets at the NITREX sites. Forest Ecology and Management 101: 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cajander, A.K. 1949. Forest types and their significance. Acta Forestalia Fennica 56: 71.Google Scholar
  9. Cole, J.J., Y.T. Prairie, N.F. Caraco, W.H. McDowell, L.J. Tranvik, R.G. Striegl, C.M. Duarte, P. Kortelainen, et al. 2007. Plumbing the global carbon cycle: Integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10: 171–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Drebs, A., A. Nordlund, P. Karlsson, J. Helminen, and P. Rissanen, 2002. Climatological statistics of Finland 1971–2000. Finnish Meteorological Institute.Google Scholar
  11. Finér, L., M. Ahtiainen, H. Mannerkoski, V. Möttönen, S. Piirainen, P. Seuna, and M. Starr. 1997. Effects of harvesting and scarification on water and nutrient fluxes. A description of catchment and methods, and results from the pretreatment calibration period. The Finnish Forest Research Institute, Research Papers 648, 38 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Finér, L., H. Mannerkoski, S. Piirainen, and M. Starr. 2003. Carbon and nitrogen pools in an old-growth, Norway spruce mixed forest in Eastern Finland and changes associated with clear-cutting. Forest Ecology and Management 174: 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grip, H. 1982. Water chemistry and runoff in forest streams in Kloten. UNGI Report 58. Division of Hydrology, Department of Physical Geography, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
  14. Haapanen, M., K. Kenttämies, P. Porvari, and T. Sallantaus. 2006. Kivennäismaan uudistushakkuun vaikutus kasvinravinteiden ja orgaanisen aineen huuhtoutumiseen; raportti Kurussa ja Janakkalassa sijaitsevien tutkimusalueiden tuloksista. Suomen Ympäristö 816: 43–59.Google Scholar
  15. Hornbeck, J.W., C.W. Martin, and C. Eagar. 1997. Summary of water yield experiments at Hubbard Brook experimental forest, New Hampshire. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 27: 2043–2052.Google Scholar
  16. Ide, J., L. Finér, A. Laurén, S. Piirainen, and S. Launiainen. 2013. Effects of clear-cutting on annual and seasonal runoff from a boreal forest catchment in eastern Finland. Forest Ecology and Management 304: 482–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Köhler, S.J., I. Buffam, H. Laudon, and K. Bishop. 2008. Climate’s control of intra-annual and interannual variability of total organic carbon concentration and flux in two contrasting boreal landscape elements. Journal of Geophysical Research 113: G03012. doi: 10.1029/2007JG000629.Google Scholar
  18. Kokkonen, T., H. Koivusalo, A. Laurén, S. Penttinen, M. Starr, S. Kellomäki, and L. Finér. 2006. Implications of processing spatial data from a forested catchment for a hillslope hydrological model. Ecological Modelling 199: 393–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kortelainen, P., T. Mattsson, L. Finér, M. Ahtiainen, S. Saukkonen, and T. Sallantaus. 2006. Controls on the export of C, N, P and Fe from undisturbed boreal catchments, Finland. Aquatic Sciences 68: 453–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kreutzweiser, D.P., P.W. Hazlett, and J.M. Gunn. 2008. Logging impacts on the biogeochemistry of boreal forest soils and nutrient export to aquatic systems: A review. Environmental Reviews 16: 157–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kubin, E. 1998. Leaching of nitrate nitrogen into the groundwater after clearfelling and site preparation. Boreal Environment Research 3: 1–8.Google Scholar
  22. Laine, J., and H. Vasander. 1990. Suotyypit. Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä.Google Scholar
  23. Lamontagne, S., R. Carignan, P. D’Arcy, Y.T. Prairie, and D. Paré. 2000. Element export in runoff from eastern Canadian Boreal Shield drainage basins following forest harvesting and wildfires. Canadian Journal Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57: 118–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Laudon, H., S. Köhler, and I. Buffam. 2004. Seasonal TOC export from seven boreal catchments in northern Sweden. Aquatic Sciences 66: 223–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Laudon, H., J. Hedtjärn, J. Schelker, K. Bishop, R. Sorensen, and A. Ågren. 2009. Response of dissolved organic carbon following forest harvesting in a boreal forest. AMBIO 38: 381–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Laurén, A., L. Finér, H. Koivusalo, T. Kokkonen, T. Karvonen, S. Kellomäki, H. Mannerkoski, and M. Ahtiainen. 2005. Water and nitrogen processes along a typical water flowpath and streamwater exports from a forested catchments and changes after clear-cutting: A modelling study. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 9: 657–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Laurén, A., J. Heinonen, H. Koivusalo, S. Sarkkola, S. Tattari, T. Mattsson, M. Ahtiainen, S. Joensuu, et al. 2009. Implications of uncertainty in a pre-treatment dataset when estimating treatment effects in paired catchment studies: phosphorus loads from forest clear-cuts. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 196: 251–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lepistö, A., L. Andersson, B. Arheimer, and K. Sunblad. 1995. Influence of catchment characteristics, forestry activities and deposition on nitrogen export from small forested catchments. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 84: 81–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Likens, G.E., F.H. Bormann, N.M. Johnson, D.W. Fisher, and R.S. Pierce. 1970. Effects of forest cutting and herbicide treatment on nutrient budgets in the Hubbard Brook watershed-ecosystem. Ecological Monographs 40: 23–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Löfgren, S., E. Ring, C. von Brömssen, R. Sørensen, and L. Högbom. 2009. Short-term effects of clear-cutting on the water chemistry of two boreal streams in northern Sweden: A paired catchment study. AMBIO 38: 347–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lundin, L. 1979. The effect of clear-cutting on soil moisture and ground water level. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Reports in Forest Ecology and Forest Soils 36, 35 pp.Google Scholar
  32. Lundmark-Thelin, A., and M.-B. Johansson. 1997. Influence of mechanical site preparation on decomposition and nutrient dynamics of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) needle litter and slash needles. Forest Ecology and Management 96: 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mäkitalo, K. 2009. Soil hydrological properties and conditions, site preparation and the long-term performance of planted Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) on upland forest sites in Finnish Lapland. Dissertationes Forestales 80: 71.Google Scholar
  34. Mannerkoski, H., L. Finér, S. Piirainen, and M. Starr. 2005. Effect of clear-cutting and site preparation on the level and quality of groundwater in some headwater catchments in eastern Finland. Forest Ecology and Management 220: 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mattsson, T., L. Finér, P. Kortelainen, and T. Sallantaus. 2003. Brook water quality and background leaching from unmanaged forested catchments in Finland. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 147: 275–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mattsson, T., L. Finér, K. Kenttämies, M. Ahtiainen, M. Haapanen, and A. Lepistö. 2006. Avohakkuun vaikutus fosforin, typen ja kiintoaineen huuhtoumiin; raportti VALU-tutkimushankkeen ja Siuntion Rudbäckin alueiden tutkimuksesta. Suomen Ympäristö 816: 63–70.Google Scholar
  37. Mattsson, T., P. Kortelainen, A. Lepistö, and A. Räike. 2007. Organic and minerogenic acidity in Finnish rivers in relation to land use and deposition. Science of the Total Environment 383: 183–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nieminen, M., and M. Jarva. 1996. Phosphorus adsorption by peat from drained mires in southern Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 11: 321–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Paavolainen, L., and A. Smolander. 1998. Nitrification and denitrification in soil from a clear-cut Norway spruce (Picea abies) stand. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 30: 775–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Palviainen, M., L. Finér, A.-M. Kurka, H. Mannerkoski, S. Piirainen, and M. Starr. 2004. Decomposition and nutrient release from logging residues after clear-cutting of mixed boreal forest. Plant and Soil 263: 53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Palviainen, M., L. Finér, H. Mannerkoski, S. Piirainen, and M. Starr. 2005. Changes in the above- and below-ground biomass and nutrient pools of ground vegetation after clear-cutting of a mixed boreal forest. Plant and Soil 275: 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Palviainen, M., L. Finér, A. Laurén, H. Mannerkoski, S. Piirainen, and M. Starr. 2007. Development of ground vegetation biomass and nutrient pools in a clear-cut disc-plowed boreal forest. Plant and Soil 297: 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Piirainen, S., L. Finér, and M. Starr. 1998. Canopy and soil retention of nitrogen deposition in a mixed boreal forest in Eastern Finland. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 105: 165–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Piirainen, S., L. Finér, H. Mannerkoski, and M. Starr. 2002. Effects of forest clear-cutting on the carbon and nitrogen fluxes through podzolic soil horizons. Plant and Soil 239: 301–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Piirainen, S., L. Finér, H. Mannerkoski, and M. Starr. 2004. Effects of forest clear- cutting on sulphur, phosphorus and base cation fluxes through podzolic soil horizons. Biogeochemistry 69: 405–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Piirainen, S., L. Finér, H. Mannerkoski, and M. Starr. 2007. Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus leaching after site preparation at a boreal forest clear-cut area. Forest Ecology and Management 243: 10–18.Google Scholar
  47. Porvari, P., M. Verta, J. Munthe, and M. Haapanen. 2003. Forestry practices increase mercury and methyl mercury output from boreal forest catchments. Environmental Science and Technology 37: 2389–2393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rekolainen, S., M. Posch, J. Kämäri, and P. Ekholm. 1991. Evaluation of the accuracy and precision of annual phosphorus load estimates from two agricultural basins in Finland. Journal of Hydrology 128: 237–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Reuter, J.H., and E.M. Perdue. 1977. Importance of heavy metal-organic matter interactions in natural waters. Geochimica et Cosmoschimita Acta 41: 325–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rosén, K., J.-A. Aronson, and H.M. Eriksson. 1996. Effects of clear-cutting on streamwater quality in forest catchments in central Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management 83: 237–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Saari, P., S. Saarnio, J.V.K. Kukkonen, J. Akkanen, J. Heinonen, V. Saari, and J. Alm. 2009. DOC and N2O dynamics in upland and peatland forest soils after clear-cutting and soil preparation. Biogeochemistry 94: 217–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schelker, J., K. Eklöf, K. Bishop, and H. Laudon. 2012. Effects of forestry operations on dissolved organic carbon concentrations and export in boreal first-order streams. Journal of Geophysical Research 117: G01011. doi: 10.1029/2011JG001827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schelker, J., L. Kuglerová, K. Eklöf, K. Bishop, and H. Laudon. 2013. Hydrological effects of clear-cutting in boreal forest—Snowpack dynamics, snowmelt and streamflow responses. Journal of Hydrology 484: 105–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Smolander, A., L. Paavolainen, and E. Mälkönen. 2000. C and N transformation in forest soil after mounding for regeneration. Forest Ecology and Management 134: 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Smolander, A., V. Kitunen, and E. Mälkönen. 2001. Dissolved soil organic nitrogen and carbon in a Norway spruce stand and adjacent clear-cut. Biology and Fertility of Soils 33: 190–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sørensen, R., E. Ring, M. Meili, L. Högbom, J. Seibert, T. Grabs, H. Laudon, and K. Bishop. 2009. Forest harvest increases runoff most during low flows in two boreal streams. AMBIO 38: 357–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stednick, J.D. 1996. Monitoring the effects of timber harvest on annual water yield. Journal of Hydrology 176: 79–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Varhola, A., N.C. Coops, M. Weiler, and R.D. Moore. 2010. Forest canopy effects on snow accumulation and ablation: An integrative review of empirical results. Journal of Hydrology 392: 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wiklander, G., G. Nordlander, and R. Andersson. 1991. Leaching of nitrogen from a forested catchment at Söderåsen in southern Sweden. Water, Air, and Soil pollution 55: 263–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ylitalo, E. (ed.) 2010. Finnish Statistical Yearbook of Forestry, 469 pp. Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vammalan kirjapaino Oy.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marjo Palviainen
    • 1
  • Leena Finér
    • 2
  • Ari Laurén
    • 2
  • Samuli Launiainen
    • 2
  • Sirpa Piirainen
    • 2
  • Tuija Mattsson
    • 3
  • Mike Starr
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Finnish Forest Research Institute, Joensuu Research UnitJoensuuFinland
  3. 3.Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)HelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations