Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Impact of timber harvesting and production on streams: A review

IC Campbell and TJ Doeg

Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 40(5) 519 - 539
Published: 1989


Timber harvesting operations have significant effects on both water quantity and water quality. The effects on water quantity have been well documented both in Australia and elsewhere. The effects on water quality are less widely appreciated, and include elevated concentrations of dissolved salts, suspended solids and nutrients, especially during peak flow periods. Several Australian studies have failed to measure peak flow transport of suspended solids, or have measured it inadequately, thus severely underestimating transport.

The major short-term effects of timber harvesting on the aquatic biota result from increased sediment input into streams or increased light through damage to, or removal of, the riparian vegetation. Sediment which settles on, or penetrates into, the stream bed is of more concern than suspended sediment, and can lead to long-term deleterious changes to fish and invertebrate populations. Increased light causes an increase in stream primary production which may increase invertebrate densities, and alter community composition. These biological consequences have not yet been adequately investigated in Australia. Longer-term effects, as yet not investigated in Australia, include changes to stream structure as the regrowth forest has fewer large logs to fall into the stream. These large logs play a major role as habitat and retention structures in streams.

There has been no attempt to evaluate the effects of timber production activities, including pesticide use and fuel reduction burning, on the Australian stream biota. Likewise, although buffer zones are widely advocated as a protection measure for streams in Australia, there have been no studies to evaluate their effectiveness.

© CSIRO 1989

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