Forest management impacts on stream integrity at varying intensities and spatial scales: Do biological effects accumulate spatially?
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The effects of forest harvesting on headwaters are quite well understood, yet our understanding of whether impacts accumulate or dissipate downstream is limited. To address this, we investigated whether several biotic indicators changed from smaller to larger downstream sites (n = 6) within three basins that had intensive, extensive or minimal forest management in New Brunswick (Canada). Biofilm biomass and grazer abundance significantly increased from upstream to downstream, whereas organic matter decomposition and the autotrophic index of biofilms decreased. However, some spatial trends differed among basins and indicated either cumulative (macroinvertebrate abundance, predator density, sculpin GSI) or dissipative (autotrophic index, cotton decomposition) effects downstream, potentially explained by sediment and nutrient dynamics related to harvesting. No such among-basin differences were observed for leaf decomposition, biofilm biomass, macroinvertebrate richness or sculpin condition. Additionally, results suggest that some of the same biological impacts of forestry observed in small headwaters also occurred in larger systems. Although the intensive and extensive basins had lower macroinvertebrate diversity, there were no other signs of biological impairment, suggesting that, overall, current best management practices protect biological integrity downstream despite abiotic effects.
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