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Forest harvesting and water: the Lake States experience

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Water Resources Bulletin. 22(6): 1039-1047.


The impact of forests on water has been a subject of argument for more than a century. It still is; and many studies conform that there is no single right answer in the debate. In the Lake States, clearcutting natural peatlands will not change annual streamflow nor will it seriously impact water quality if logging is done on frozen soils. However, clearcutting will cause water tables to fluctuate more, ranging from 9 cm higher to 19 cm lower than in peatlands with mature forests. Clearcutting upland hardwoods or conifers will increase annual streamflow by 9 to 20 cm (a 30- to 80-percent increase). Streamflow returns to preharvest levels in 12 to 15 years. Annual peak flows are at least doubled and snowmelt flood-peak increases may persist for 15 years. Water quality is not widely impacted, but operating logging equipment in stream channels will cause channel clogging by filamentous algae and loss of fish habitat. Permanent changes from forest to agricultural and urban land use on two- thirds or more of a watershed will significantly increase the size of flood peaks in the 2- to 30-year return interval storm or snowmelt.


clearcutting; streamflow; forest fire; water quality; peatlands; wetlands; uplands; water yield


Verry, Elon S. 1986. Forest harvesting and water: the Lake States experience. Water Resources Bulletin. 22(6): 1039-1047.

Last updated on: November 19, 2007