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    Forested riparian buffer zones are used in conjunction with upland forest management, in part, to provide for the recruitment for large wood to streams. Small headwater streams account for the majority of stream networks in many forested regions. Yet, our understanding of how riparian buffer width influences wood dynamics in headwater streams is relatively less developed compared to larger fish-bearing streams. The effects of riparian buffer width on instream wood loading after thinning can be difficult to discern due to the influence of basin characteristics and reach-scale geomorphology on wood recruitment, breakage and redistribution. We assessed the relationships between instream wood loading, geomorphology and riparian buffer width in small headwater streams after upland thinning. Then we examined the distances between pieces of stream wood and their sources, or the distance from which wood volumes were recruited to these streams. Data were collected along 34 stream reaches at six different sites in a replicated field experiment, comparing three no-harvest streamside buffer treatments (~6-m, 15-m minimum, and ~70-m widths). At each site, second-growth forests were thinned first to 200 trees per ha [tph] and ~10 years later to 85 tph, alongside an unthinned reference unit (~400 tph). We measured wood loading (m3/100 m) four times: (1) prior to thinning; (2) year 5 post-1st thinning; (3) immediately prior to the 2nd thinning; and (4) year 1 post-2nd thinning. The majority of wood volume was in late stages of decay, most likely biological legacies from the previous forest stand, and distributed along the streambank. Surprisingly, wood volume in early stages of decay was higher in stream reaches with a narrow 6-m buffer than in stream reaches with larger 15- and 70-m buffers and the unthinned reference units. Additionally, wood volume increased with drainage basin area. Only 45% of wood in late stages of decay could be associated with a particular source. Yet, 82% and 85% of sourced wood in early and late stages of decay, respectively, originated from within 15 m of streams. Expected continue low rates will likely result in declining volumes of wood in late stages of decay. Thinning and directional felling of logs into to streams could be used to augment wood volumes in the near term, and accelerate the development of large-diameter logs for future inputs. However, the relationship between instream wood loading and basin area suggests that instream wood loading depends on management across the entire watershed.

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    Burton, Julia I.; Olson, Deanna H.; Puettmann, Klaus J. 2016. Effects of riparian buffer width on wood loading in headwater streams after repeated forest thinning. Forest Ecology and Management. 372: 247-257.


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    Best management practices, Coarse woody debris, Density management, Forest management, Pacific Northwest, Stream management zone.

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