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Riparian Thinning & Tipping: Restoration

Published, December 2015

Thinning and In-Stream Wood Recruitment in Riparian Second Growth Forests in Coastal Oregon and the Use of Buffers and Tree Tipping as Mitigation (Journal of Forest Research)

Lee E. Benda1, S. E. Litschert2, Gordon Reeves3, Robert Pabst4  
1TerrainWorks, 2 BLM-Denver, 3 USFS, PNW, 4 Oregon State University

Many aquatic habitats in coastal Oregon have been impacted by historic land use practices that led to losses of in-stream wood and associated degraded fish habitats. Many of these streams are now bordered by stands of dense second growth forests (30 – 80 years) that are incorporated into riparian buffer zones with low wood recruitment and storage. Thinning in riparian zones is one management option to increase the rate of large tree growth and eventually larger in-stream wood, however, it raises concern about impacts on current wood recruitment, among other issues. Using a forest growth simulation model coupled to a model of in-stream wood recruitment, we explore riparian management alternatives in a Douglas-fir plantation in coastal Oregon. Alternatives included: (1) no treatment, (2) single and double entry thinning, without and with a 10-m buffer, and (3) thinning combined with mechanical introduction of some portion of the thinned trees into the stream (tree tipping). Compared to no treatment, single and double entry thinning on one side of a channel, without a 10-m buffer, reduce cumulative in-stream wood volume 33% and 42% respectively, after 100 years (includes decay). Maintaining a 10-m buffer reduces the in-stream wood loss to 7% (single entry thin) and 11% (double entry). To completely offset the losses of in-stream wood in a single entry thin (on one or both sides of the stream), in the absence or presence of a 10-m buffer, requires a 12 to 14% rate of tree tipping.  Relative to the no-treatment alternative, cumulative in-stream wood storage can be increased up to 24% in a double-entry thin with no buffer by tipping 15 to 20% of the thinned trees (increased to 48% if thinning and tipping simultaneously on both sides of the stream). The predicted increases in in-stream wood that can occur during a thin with tree tipping may be effective for restoring fish habitat, particularly in aquatic systems that have poor habitat conditions and low levels of in-stream wood due to historic land use activities.

See full paper here.