Ann. Limnol. - Int. J. Lim.
Volume 48, Number 4, 2012
|401 - 409
|19 December 2012
Is smaller necessarily better? Effects of small-scale forest harvesting on stream ecosystems
1 CNRS, INP, UPS, EcoLab – Université de Toulouse, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse, France
2 The French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA), Research and Development Department, avenue du Petit Parc – Le Nadar Hall C, 94300 Vincennes, France
3 Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
* Corresponding author: email@example.com
Accepted: 19 October 2012
Knowledge on ecological impacts of forestry practices on aquatic ecosystems relies almost exclusively on data from large-scale forest harvesting, often involving clearfelling of whole stream catchments. To determine effects associated with less intensive and widespread forest management, we examined the responses of headwater streams to small-scale forest harvesting, including riparian zones adjacent to study reaches but corresponding to less than 5% of the catchment areas. Stream reaches running through recently (2–4 years) harvested forest patches were paired with and compared with adjacent reaches bordered by mature broadleaf forest. We determined abiotic stream characteristics, invertebrate community structures and abundances, trout size and population densities, and leaf litter breakdown rates in each of these pairs. Harvested reaches were found to have different channel cross-section morphology and greater invertebrate abundances in leaf packs than mature forest reaches. Shifts in the abundance of common invertebrate predators were also attributed to riparian forest harvesting. Litter breakdown rates and brown trout densities did not show any significant difference between harvested and mature forest reaches across the four site pairs, possibly because of nonlinear responses to post-harvest riparian canopy openness. Managers must be aware that small-scale forest harvesting in stream riparian areas is not without consequences for aquatic ecosystems. Whether natural riparian forest openings, such as caused by tree death and blow-down, have similar effects on stream ecosystems is an important question to address if we are to confirm the usefulness of small-scale forestry and improve forest and stream management schemes.
Key words: Fish / forest management / leaf litter breakdown / invertebrates / riparian canopy
© EDP Sciences, 2012
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