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Research article2023Peer reviewed

Long-term effects on water chemistry and macroinvertebrates of selective thinning along small boreal forest streams

Ring, Eva; Lofgren, Stefan; Hogbom, Lars; Ostlund, Mikael; Wiklund-McKie, Magda -Lena; Mckie, Brendan G.


The maintenance of narrow strips of trees (forest buffers) along the shorelines of surface water bodies during logging is a common measure to protect freshwater habitats. The functionality of forest buffers may be improved by actively managing the streamside forest early in the rotation for their eventual function as buffers, including by increasing the proportion of broadleaf trees in spruce-dominated stands. In this study, long-term effects of different selective thinning regimes along two small forest streams were investigated in south-central Sweden. In a young coniferous forest, a c. 10 m-wide band along the streams was selectively thinned in 1998 to create a band with purely broadleaf trees along one of the streams and purely conifers along the other. Forest stand characteristics, water chemistry and benthic macroinvertebrates data were collected during 1996-2003 (before and after selective thinning). The streams were re-investigated 20-22 years after thinning, together with three streams representing operational forest management. The forest adjacent to all five streams was inventoried and litterfall, stream water chemistry, and benthic macroinvertebrates composition were monitored between spring and late autumn during 2018-2020. Twenty years after thinning, the thinned bands beside the streams were still dominated by either broadleaf trees or conifers, depending on the stream. Over the longer term, the differences in water chemistry between the streams with selective thinning were mainly related to lower pH, ANC, Tot-P and Tot-N concentrations in the stream bordered by mainly broadleaf trees. Analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates was based on environmental quality indices (ASPT and EPT), diversity and abundance metrics, and relative abundances of functional feeding groups. Streams with higher broadleaf litter inputs tended to score better on the ASPT and EPT indices than those with lower broadleaf inputs, as well as supporting higher relative abundances of one or more groups of invertebrate detritivores (leaf shredders, collector-gatherers and/or passive filter feeders). This suggests that management of the density of broadleaf trees beside these streams might support higher ecological status and will support a greater proportion of detritivores in benthic food webs.


Forestry; Headwater; Riparian zone; Water quality

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2023, Volume: 549, article number: 121459Publisher: ELSEVIER