Forest clearance increases metabolism and organic matter processes in small headwater streams
Clapcott, JE and Barmuta, LA, Forest clearance increases metabolism and organic matter processes in small headwater streams, Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 29, (2) pp. 546-561. ISSN 0887-3593 (2010) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2010 North American Benthological Society
Small headwater streams are abundant components of the riverine landscape where critical biochemical processes occur that provide clean water, energy, and nutrients to downstream reaches. Disturbance to these systems as a result of human land use has the potential to affect downstream health. Rates of metabolism and organic matter processing were measured in 22 small forested headwater streams in 2 regions of Tasmania, Australia, to evaluate the effects of forestry disturbance. Twelve of these streams had been subjected to recent clearfell-burn-and-sow (CBS) harvest. Benthic metabolism was measured in small in situ chambers (production ranged from <0.001 to 21.845 mg C m−2 h−1 and respiration from <0.001 to 4.976 mg C m−2 h−1), whole-system metabolism was estimated based on relative habitat abundance (gross primary production ranged from <0.001 to 0.297 g C m−2 d−1 and daily respiration from 0.003 to 0.072 g C m−2 d−1). Algal growth potential was measured on nutrient diffusing pots (chlorophyll a ranged from <1.0 to 40.1 mg/m2), and cellulose decomposition potential was assessed with a cotton-strip assay (cotton tensile strength loss ranged from 17.8% to 38.3% in 28 d). Sometimes an increase in the variability of response is a consequence of disturbance, but in our study, the difference between forested streams and clearcut streams was a significant increase in the mean values of all functional variables. The degree of response depended on the underlying geology (broad-scale spatial variability) of the streams. Current management practices for small headwater streams in Tasmania do not protect instream processes from forestry disturbance in the short-term (i.e., 2–5 y), and we suggest that an investigation of long-term response is warranted.