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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

Clean Air and Water

Water from Forests

Research Issue

[photo:] stream in forest at high flow, showing the clean water that is a hallmark of forested watershedsBecause the majority of the U.S. drinking water supplies originate on forested land, forest managers must be able to predict the effects of their management activities upon the quantity and quality of water coming from these forests.  Thus, a sound understanding of the effects of disturbances, both natural and human-caused, on water quality and quantity is needed to help sustain healthy forests and clean abundant water, in a world with changing climate.

Our Research

We work both on and off on the Fernow Experimental Forest. Some of our hydrologic investigations involve hypothesis testing experiments, while others are focused on long-term monitoring.  Data from the Fernow Experimental Forest are some of the country’s longest continuous hydrologic and meteorological data from forested watersheds.  The physical information about streamflow and weather are further augmented by long-term water chemistry records stemming from analyses in our water quality laboratory at the Timber and Watershed Laboratory in Parsons, WV.  We use these long-term data records and experiments to address questions about hydrologic and chemical processes in forests and to answer more applied questions of interest to federal, state, and industrial land managers, as well as small woodlot owners

Expected Outcomes

Our research informs municipal water suppliers, land managers, policy makers, advocacy groups and individual citizens about the relationship between forests, water quantity, and water quality. Providing this information is especially important today from the context of water security, as demands for water continually increase and as climate change is expected to create more extreme weather fluctuations with more droughts and water shortages. A better-informed constituency contributes to better decisions at the personal, national, and even global scales.

Research Results

Edwards, Pamela J.; Williard, Karl W.J.; Schoonover, Jon E. 2015. Fundamentals of watershed hydrology. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. 154: 3-20.

Creed, Irena F.; Spargo, Adam T.; Jones, Julia A.; Buttle, Jim M.; Adams, Mary B.; Beall, Fred D.; Booth, Eric G.; Campbell, John L.; Clow, Dave; Elder, Kelly; Green, Mark B.; Grimm, Nancy B.; Miniat, Chelcy; Ramlal, Patricia; Saha, Amartya; Sebestyen, Stephen; Spittlehouse, Dave; Sterling, Shannon; Williams, Mark W.; Winkler, Rita; Yao, Huaxia. 2014. Changing forest water yields in response to climate warming: results from long-term experimental watershed sites across North America. Global Change Biology. 20(10): 3191-3208.

Vose, James M.; Swank, Wayne T.; Adams, Mary Beth; Amatya, Devendra; Campbell, John; Johnson, Sherri; Swanson, Frederick J.; Kolka, Randy; Lugo, Ariel E.; Musselman, Robert; Rhoades, Charles. 2014. The role of experimental forests and ranges in the development of ecosystem science and biogeochemical cycling research. In: Hayes, D.C.; Stout, S.L.; Crawford, R.H.; Hoover, A.P., eds. USDA Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges Research for the Long Term: 387-404.

Argerich, A.; Johnson, S.L.; Sebestyen, S.D.; Rhoades, C.C.; Greathouse, E.; Knoepp, J.D.; Adams, M.B.; Likens, G.E.; Campbell, J.L.; McDowell, W.H.; Scatena, F.N.; Ice, G.G. 2013. Trends in stream nitrogen concentrations for forested reference catchments across the USA. Environmental Research Letters. 8(Art. 014039). 8 p.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Troendle, Charles A. 2012. Chapter 11. Water yield and hydrology. In Lafayette, R., Brooks, M. R., Potyondy, J. P., Audin, L., Krieger, S., Trettin, C. C., eds. Cumulative watershed effects of fuel management in the eastern United States. Gen. Tech. Rept. SRS-161. Asheville, NC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station:  229-281.

Jones, Julia A.; Creed, Irena F.; Hatcher, Kendra L.; Warren, Robert J.; Adams, Mary Beth; Benson, Melinda H.; Boose, Emery; Brown, Warren A.; Campbell, John L.; Covich, Alan; Clow, David W.; Dahm, Clifford N.; Elder, Kelly; Ford, Chelcy R.; Grimm, Nancy B.; Henshaw, Donald L; Larson, Kelli L.; Miles, Evan S.; Miles, Kathleen M.; Sebestyen, Stephen D.; Spargo, Adam T.; Stone, Asa B.; Vose, James M.; Williams, Mark W. 2012. Ecosystem processes and human influences regulate streamflow response to climate change at long-term ecological research sites. BioScience. 62(4): 390-404.

Tedela, Negussie H.; McCutcheon, Steven C.; Campbell, John L.; Swank, W.ayne T.; Adams, Mary Beth; Rasmussen, Todd C. 2012. Curve numbers for nine mountainous eastern United States watersheds: seasonal variation and forest cutting. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. 17: 1199-1203.

Tedela, Negussie H.; McCutcheon, Steven C.; Rasmussen, Todd C.; Hawkins, Richard H.; Swank, Wayne T.; Campbell, John L.; Adams, Mary Beth; Jackson, C. Rhett; Tollner, Ernest W. 2012. Runoff curve numbers for 10 small forested watersheds in the mountains of the eastern United States. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. 17: 1188-1198.

Vose, James M.; Ford, Chelcy R.; Laseter, Stephanie; Dymond, Salli; Sun, GE; Adams, Mary Beth; Sebestyen, Stephen; Campbell, John; Luce, Charles; Amatya, Devendra; Elder, Kelly; Heartsill-Scalley, Tamara. 2012. Can forest watershed management mitigate climate change impacts on water resources?. In: Webb, Ashley A.; Bonell, Mike; Bren, Leon; Lane, Patrick N. J.; et. al., eds. Revisiting experimental catchment studies in forest hydrology. Proceedings of a workshop held during the XXV International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics; 2011 June 27- July 8; Melbourne, Australia. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication 353. Osfordshire, UK: International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication: 12-25.

Edwards, Pamela; Williard, Karl W.J. 2010. Efficiencies of forestry best management practices for reducing sediment and nutrient losses in the eastern United States. Journal of Forestry. July/August: 245-249.

Lisle, Thomas E.; Adams, Mary Beth; Reid, Leslie M.; Elder, Kelly. 2010. Hydrologic influences of forest vegetation in a changing world: Learning from Forest Service experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds. In: Adams, Mary Beth; NcNeel, Joe; Rodriguez-Franco, Carlos. 2010. Meeting current and future conservation challenges through the synthesis of long-term silviculture and range management research. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-84. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 37-49.

Wang, Jingxin; Edwards, Pam; Hamons, Greg W.; Goff, William. 2010. Assessing RUSLE and hill-slope soil movement modeling in the central Appalachians. In: 2010 ASABE annual international meeting proceedings; 2010 June 20-23; Pittsburgh, PA. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers: 1-13.

Farr, C.; Skousen, J.; Edwards, P.; Connolly, S.; Sencindiver, J. 2009. Acid soil indicators in forest soils of the Cherry River Watershed, West Virginia. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 158: 343-353.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Wang, Jingxin, Stedman, Joshua T. 2009. Recommendations for constructing forest stream crossings to control soil losses. In: Colosimo, Mark, ed. Proceedings, American Water Resources Association 2009 Summer Specialty Conference, Adaptive Management of Water Resources II. Middleburg, VA: American Water Resources Association. 6 p.

Adams, Mary Beth; Kochenderfer, James N. 2007. Long-term stream chemistry monitoring on the Fernow Experimental Forest: Implications for Sustainiable Management of Hardwood Forests. In: Buckley, David S.; Clatterbuck, Wayne K., eds. Proceedings, 15th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. 2006 February 27-March 1; Knoxville, TN. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. e-General Technical Report SRS-101:97-106. [CD-ROM].

Eisenbies, M. H.; Aust, W. M.; Burger, J. A.; Adams, M. B. 2007. Forest Operations, Extreme Flooding Events, and Considerations for Hydrologic Modeling in the Appalachians – A Review. Forest Ecology and Management 242(2007):77-98.

Eisenbies, Mark H.; Adams, Mary Beth; Aust, W. Michael; Burger, James A. 2007. Bibliography of Forest Water Yields, Flooding Issues, and the Hydrologic Modeling of Extreme Flood Events. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. General Technical Report NRS-8. 40 p.

Kochenderfer, James N.; Adams, Mary Beth; Miller, Gary W.; Helvey, David J. 2007. Factors Affecting Large Peakflows on Appalachian Watersheds: Lessons from the Fernow Experimental Forest. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. Research Paper NRS-3. 24 p.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Williard, Karl W. J.; Kochenderfer, James N. 2004. Sampling Considerations for Establishment of Baseline Loadings from Forested Watersheds for TDML Applications. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 98:201-223.

DeWalle, D. R.; Edwards, P. J.; Swistock, B. R.; Aravena, R.; Drimmie, R. J. 1997. Seasonal Isotope Hydrology of Three Appalachian Forest Catchments. Hydrological Processes 11:1895-1906.

Kochenderfer, James N.; Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 1997. Hydrologic impacts of Logging an Appalachian Watershed using West Virginia's Best Managements Practices. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry 14(4):207-218.

Hornbeck, J. W.; Adams, M. B.; Corbett, E. S.; Verry, E. S.; Lynch, J. A. 1995. A Summary of Water Yield Experiments on Hardwood Forested Watersheds in Northeastern U.S. In: Gottschalk, Kurt W.; Fosbroke, Sandra L.C., eds. Proceedings, 10th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. 1995 March 5-8; Morgantown, WV. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. General Technical Report NE-197:282-295.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Helvey, J. David. 1991. Long-term Ionic Increases from a Central Appalchian Forested Watershed. Journal of Environmental Quality 20:250-255.

Edwards, Pamela J.; Kochenderfer, James N.; Seegrist, Donald W. 1991.  Effects of Forest Fertilization on Stream Water Chemistry in the Appalachians. Water Resources Bulletin 27(2):265-274.

Kochenderfer, James N.; Edwards, Pamela J. 1991. Effectiveness of three Streamside Management Practices in the Central Appalachians. In: Coleman, Sandra S; Neary, Daniel G., comps., eds. Proceedings, Sixth Biennial Southern Silvicultural Research Conference. 1990 Oct.30-Nov. 1; Memphis, TN. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. General Technical Report SE-70 Volume 1:688-700.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Mary Beth Adams, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station - Research Soil Scientist
  • Pamela J. Edwards, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station - Research Hydrologist

Research Partners

Last Modified: 06/12/2018

Featured Products

Edwards, Pamela J.; Williard, Karl W.J.; Schoonover, Jon E. 2015. Fundamentals of watershed hydrology. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. 154: 3-20.

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Argerich, A.; Johnson, S.L.; Sebestyen, S.D.; Rhoades, C.C.; Greathouse, E.; Knoepp, J.D.; Adams, M.B.; Likens, G.E.; Campbell, J.L.; McDowell, W.H.; Scatena, F.N.; Ice, G.G. 2013. Trends in stream nitrogen concentrations for forested reference catchments across the USA. Environmental Research Letters. 8(Art. 014039). 8 p.