Canadian Forest Service Publications

The effects of logging in riparian areas. 2012. Kreutzweiser, D. Natural Resources Canada. Canadian Forest Service. Great Lakes Forestry Centre. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Frontline Express 56. 2p.

Year: 2012

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 33363

Language: English

Series: Frontline Express (GLFC - Sault Ste. Marie)

Availability: PDF (download)

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Riparian zones, the areas adjacent to water bodies, are treated with special consideration during forestry activities because of their important role in protecting aquatic ecosystems. The vegetation in these zones provides important wildlife habitat for both terrestrial and semi-aquatic organisms, helps regulate water flow and nutrient cycling, and protects water quality. Until recently, most forest management prescriptions included a no-cut zone around water bodies (Figure 1) so that riparian areas could act as buffers during logging operations, preventing excessive biomass and sediment from reaching these sensitive areas. However, in many regions the landscape is now characterized by strips of uncut patches along streams and around lakes, creating unnatural patterns. Current management prescriptions seek to emulate natural disturbances across the landscape; these patches of older, uncut forest do not fit with this concept. Fire is the most common natural disturbance in the boreal forest and it does not leave riparian zones untouched, although fires tend to burn less intensely and more patchily in these areas, leaving some residual overstorey and gaps of various sizes. For this reason, alternative riparian zone management options are being considered, including the possibility of partial harvesting. Studies are being conducted to examine the ecological effects and economic feasibility of partially logging riparian areas, with the goal of providing sound data on which to base policy decisions regarding this issue and to increase our understanding of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem response to disturbance.