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Function and dynamics of woody debris in boreal forest streams
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Ecology and Environmental Science.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The work in this thesis deals with (1) the effects of woody debris on stream channel morphology and retention of organic material, and (2) the dynamics of woody debris and its relation to riparian forest history and composition. The studied stream reaches are situated in mature, productive forests in the boreal zone of Sweden.

Wood variables were important predictors of the frequency of debris dams, pool area, the proportion of pools formed by wood, and variation in the bankfull channel width. Pools formed by woody debris were mainly created by damming and had larger surface areas and residual depths than pools formed by other agents. Stream reaches intersecting old-growth forest (with minor influence of forest management) had coarser and longer woody debris pieces, greater amounts of wood, more debris dams, and wood-formed pools compared to streams surrounded by forests influenced by selective logging.

The influence of past forest management on the quality and quantity of woody debris in streams were analyzed by using dendrochrnological methods. Selective loggings and absence of forest fires after 1831 resulted in lower input rates and a gradual replacement of pine by sruce over time. Residence times in stream channels of woody debris (>10 cm in basal diameter) were long and the oldest dated pieces of pine and spruce were over 300 and 100 years, respectively.

Dynamics of woody debris were explored by comparing wood volumes and characteristics between stream channels and their riparianforests and between old growth and managed sites. Wood volumes recorded in the stream channels exceeded, but were related to, the volumes found in the riparian forests. Limited input of woody debris by bank cutting and absence of slope processes suggest that recruitment processes of woody debri to stream channels are similar as in riparian forests and slow decay in channels results in greater volumes.

The retentiveness of organic material in stream channels was examined by using release and capture experiments in multiple reaces during varying discharges using different sizes of leaf mimics. Sixty eight percent of the variation in retention was explained by a multiple regression model including discharge and leaf mimic siz. Between 44 and 80% of the variation in retention among reaches was explained by channel constraint, gravel coverage, and woody debris variables as the most important. Estimates from a partial least squares (PLS) model suggest an increase in mean transport distances by 22 to 53% in managed forest streams compared to old growth conditions and in a low wood scenario, mean transport distances increased by 38 to 99% with larger increases for higher discharges and larger particle sizes.

To regain more pristine conditions of stream channels, management and restoration are needed to increase the amount of woody debris that recreates lost channel structures and increaes the retention of organic material.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Ekologi och geovetenskap , 2005. , 21 p.
Keyword [en]
Ecology, Boreal forest,  CPOM,  CWD,  forest management,  geomorphology,  LWD,  riparian forest,  retention,  residence time,  streams,  Sweden,  woody debris
Keyword [sv]
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-425ISBN: 91-7305-799-1OAI: diva2:143436
Public defence
2005-02-11, 10:00
Available from: 2005-01-26 Created: 2005-01-26 Last updated: 2013-10-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Influence of woody debris on channel structure in old growth and managedforest streams in central Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Influence of woody debris on channel structure in old growth and managedforest streams in central Sweden
2004 (English)In: Environmental Management, ISSN 0364-152X, E-ISSN 1432-1009, Vol. 33, no 3, 376-384 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Anecdotal information suggests that woody debris have had an important channel-forming role in Swedish streams and rivers, but there are few data to support this view. We identified 10 streams within near-natural and 10 streams within managed forest landscapes in central Sweden, and quantified their channel characteristics and content of woody debris. All pieces of woody debris greater than 0.5 m in length and greater than 0.05 m in base diameter were included. The near-natural forests were situated in reserves protected from forest cutting, whereas the managed forests had previously faced intensive logging in the area adjacent to the stream, The two sets of streams did not differ in general abiotic characteristics such as width, slope, or boulder cover, but the number of wood pieces was twice as high and the wood volume almost four times as high in the near-natural streams. This difference resulted in a higher frequency of debris dams in the near-natural streams. Although the total pool area did not differ between the two sets of streams, the wood-formed pools were larger and deeper, and potentially ecologically more important than other pools. In contrast to what has been believed so far, woody debris can be a channel-forming agent also in steeper streams with boulder beds. In a step-wise multiple regression analysis, pool area was positively and most strongly related to the quantity of woody debris, whereas channel gradient and wood volume were negatively related. The frequency of debris dams increased with the number of pieces of woody debris, but was not affected by other variables. The management implications of this study are that the wood quantity in streams in managed forests would need to be increased if management of streams will target more pristine conditions.

Conservation of Natural Resources/statistics & numerical data, Forestry, Rivers, Sweden, Trees, Wood
National Category
Natural Sciences
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-7889 (URN)10.1007/s00267-003-3042-2 (DOI)000221646400009 ()15031768 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2008-01-13 Created: 2008-01-13 Last updated: 2013-10-04Bibliographically approved
2. Long term dynamics of large woody debris in a managed boreal forest stream
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Long term dynamics of large woody debris in a managed boreal forest stream
2005 (English)In: Forest Ecology and Management, ISSN 0378-1127, Vol. 210, no 1-3, 363-373 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Little is known about how past forest management in Sweden influenced the quantity and quality of large woody debris (LWD) in streams. The present study provides information of the long-term dynamics of LWD in a reach of a boreal stream intersecting a managed forest. Dendrochronological methods were used to reconstruct mortality years of the pieces of LWD and the general history of fire and cuttings of the surrounding riparian forest. Today, spruce dominates among the living trees, whereas the LWD is dominated by birch in the forest and by pine in the stream. Fire frequency prior to active fire suppression was similar to values reported from boreal forests. Pine trees were more abundant in the riparian forest before selective logging operations and active fire suppression began in the 1800s. Many of the pieces of LWD found in the stream today died more than 200 years ago and derived from a cohort of pines that generated in the early 1600s. Pine LWD in stream channels is highly resistant to decomposition and can reside for more than 300 years. A substantial amount of the LWD found today in managed forest streams in boreal Sweden most likely derives from the time before extensive human influence and is likely to decrease further in the future. Management of riparian forests to ascertain future supply of long-lived LWD in streams should target to increase the proportion of pine trees.

National Category
Forest Science
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4374 (URN)10.1016/j.foreco.2005.02.022 (DOI)
Available from: 2005-01-26 Created: 2005-01-26 Last updated: 2013-10-04Bibliographically approved
3. Influence of channel characteristics on the retention of coarse particulate organic material in boreal, headwater streams
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Influence of channel characteristics on the retention of coarse particulate organic material in boreal, headwater streams
Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4375 (URN)
Available from: 2005-01-26 Created: 2005-01-26Bibliographically approved
4. The dynamics of coarse woody debris in boreal regions are similar between stream channels and adjacent riparian forests
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The dynamics of coarse woody debris in boreal regions are similar between stream channels and adjacent riparian forests
Manuscript (Other academic)
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4376 (URN)
Available from: 2005-01-26 Created: 2005-01-26 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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