Research Accomplishment Reports 2009

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Evaluating Streamside Management Zone Effectiveness in Forested Headwater Catchments of Central Appalachia

C. Barton
Department of Forestry


Non-Technical Summary

Given the variability of current streamside management zone BMPs in the region, some are likely excessive or lacking with respect to the effectiveness of controlling NPSP and/or impacting biological communities that utilize these systems. BMPs that are lacking lead to enhanced NPSP and damage to biota while those that are excessive lead to costly, unneeded BMP implementation. In either case there is a cost, one environmental/ecological and one economic. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop streamside management zone BMPs that are appropriate for the Central Appalachian Region. Through this research we will develop an understanding on how specific streamside management zone BMPs influence carbon and nutrient cycling and transport, sediment transport and aquatic biota.

2009 Project Description

A project to examine forest harvesting impacts and the role of BMPs on water quality and aquatic biota in eastern Kentucky watersheds was implemented in 2005. Eight forested watersheds in the University of Kentucky's Robinson Forest (Breathitt Co., KY) were selected for inclusion in the study. Six of these watersheds were harvested, while the remaining two are being utilized as uncut controls. Three duplicated riparian zone treatments were imposed on the harvested watersheds. Treatments examine differing forestry BMPs pertaining to riparian zone width, disturbance level and stream crossings. Many of the activities implemented during this period pertained to the implementation of treatments for the project.

On 12-18-07 the University of Kentucky's Purchasing Division issued a request for proposals entitled: University of Kentucky Robinson Forest Streamside Management Zone Project - Treatment Implementation UK-0735-8. Proposals were reviewed by a panel in March of 2008 and Begley Lumber Company, Inc. was subsequently awarded the project. Starting in July of 2008, two logging firms (Joe Sizemore Logging and Mt. Calvary Logging) implemented the harvest treatments in the watersheds associated with the study. Harvest activities were finalized in of 2009 and the post-harvesting monitoring period subsequently followed. A total of 331 hectares were harvested as part of the study.

Major accomplishments for 2009 include:

1. Monitoring of stream geometry and morphological metrics, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation in riparian and upland zones, avian community, herpetofaunal in stream and riparian areas and macroinvertebrate communities within the stream systems;

2. Preliminary findings pertaining to the influence of treatment and harvest activities on storm flow hydrographs and water quality attributes have been developed for each watershed;

3. Training and educational experience for six graduate students actively involved in the project (3 from the University of Kentucky, 2 from Western Kentucky University and 1 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and numerous undergraduate interns has occurred, and continues;

4. Three presentations have been given at National forums;

5. One on-site tour for water quality/natural resource professionals (21 in attendance) and four tours for students (approximately 55 total attendance) were performed.

6. Presentations were made in four courses at the university to educate and inform students about this project.

2009 Impact

Given that the treatment implementation was just recently completed, outcomes are difficult to quantify at this time. However, the results of this research will lead to multiple refereed and popular press publications. Although publications will reach a large audience, the connection between science and policy is critical if we are to affect riparian zone BMPs in the Appalachian Region. State and regional ties through our extension and research partnerships will allow us to make the connection between science and policy.

Initially we are focusing our attention on Kentucky's forestry BMP statutes. Kentucky's statutory environment governing the approval and use of forestry BMPs provides an effective platform to ensure that the results of this study will be assessed and used in evaluating riparian zone guidelines. The combined Forestry BMP Board and Agriculture Water Quality Authorities Silviculture Committee have prioritized the need for BMP work to facilitate their role in evaluating BMP criteria and recommending changes to BMP requirements. The results of this research will be used by the Kentucky Forestry Best Management Practices Board in their role as reviewer of Kentucky's forestry BMPs and advisory body to the governors' office on forestry BMP issues and the enforcement of the Kentucky Forest Conservation Act.

The Silviculture Committee of the Agriculture Water Quality Authority will also use this information to evaluate the efficacy of Kentucky's riparian zone standards that are required for use by all woodland owners in the state owning 10 acres or more and undertaking forestry operations. This body has the ability to recommend changes to the states legal requirements for riparian zones.

Also, UK's Forestry Department has strong instate continuing education programs for loggers including the Kentucky Master Logger program and its three day primary program and associated continuing education classes, and the Kentucky LogJam newsletter sent to all Kentucky Master Loggers, ensures that there is an efficient distribution network for the information generated by this project.

The Kentucky Master Logger program is currently required for all commercial timber harvests and the program had graduated over 4,000 loggers at the end of 2000. These operators generate approximately 1 billion board feet of hardwood timber per year, with harvests impacting 300,000 acres. All 4,000 KML loggers will receive 6 hours of continuing education every 3 years. This project will provide continuing education materials in the form of fact sheets and instructional information for use in these programs and the outlets. Results will also be distributed to natural resource professionals, industry foresters, land managers and federal agencies.

We expect the impact of the research will have a "follow the leader" effect on other Appalachian States as the research is publicized. In some cases we expect that other states will directly use the results of our research to assess their riparian zone BMP guidelines. In other cases we expect that our results will indirectly affect other states by raising questions that will lead to additional BMP research in the region.

2009 Publications

Taylor, T.J., C.T. Agouridis, R.C. Warner C.D. Barton and P. Angel. 2009. Hydrologic Characteristics of Loose-Dumped Spoil in the Cumberland Plateau of Eastern Kentucky. Hydrological Processes 23: 3372-3381.

Witt, E., C. Barton, R. Kolka, D. Bowker and J. Stringer. 2009. Evaluating Best Management Practices for Ephemeral Channel Protection during Forest Harvest in the Cumberland Plateau-Preliminary Findings. Transactions of ASABE Annual International Meeting. Reno, Nevada. June 21-June 24, 2009.