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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Research Notes: Old-growth riparian forests and stream habitats

Old-growth riparian forests and effects on stream habitats
William Keeton, University of Vermont
Clifford Kraft and Dana Warren, Cornell University

Riparian forests regulate linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, yet relationships among riparian forest development, stand structure, and stream habitats are poorly understood in many temperate deciduous forest systems. Our research in the Adirondack Park has 1) described structural attributes associated with old-growth riparian forests; and 2) assessed linkages between these characteristics and in-stream habitat structure. Indicators included coarse woody debris, debris dams, plunge pools, and variations in canopy structure over stream channels. We sampled 29 sites along 1st and 2nd order stream reaches in Five Ponds Wilderness, Pigeon Lakes Wilderness, the Ampersand Mountain area of the High Peaks Wilderness, a private preserve in the southwestern Adirondacks, and the SUNY ESF Huntington Wildlife Forest. We are finding that old-growth riparian forest structure is more complex than that found in mature forests and exhibits significantly greater accumulations of aboveground tree biomass, both living and dead. Old-growth riparian forests provide in-stream habitat features that have not been widely recognized in eastern North America, representing a potential benefit from riparian forest management. Our research results suggest that riparian management practices – including buffer delineation and restorative silvicultural approaches – that emphasize development and maintenance of late-successional characteristics may be useful where the associated in-stream effects are desired.

For further information see Ecological Applications, 17(3), 2007, pp. 852–868.

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