Effectiveness of Forestry Best Management Practices: Evaluating Water Quality from Intensely Managed Watersheds
Ruhlman, Melanie B.
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Silvicultural activities account for reduced water quality in only a small percentage of nonpoint source (NPS) impaired rivers and streams across the U.S. However, as state and national water quality issues have begun to focus on NPS pollution, the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for protecting water quality should be evaluated as a cost-effective means for NPS pollution control. The goal of this project was to evaluate silvicultural BMPs as they are applied to company timberlands to determine their effectiveness in protecting and maintaining water quality in small stream systems. Similar treatment and reference watersheds were selected in largely forested areas draining actively managed and relatively undisturbed company timberlands, respectively. Sites were monitored for the initial duration of one year using various physical, chemical, and biological monitoring techniques. Chemical monitoring, including monthly grab samples for sediment and nutrients, generally showed no significant difference between treatment and reference sites. Water quality standards were not exceeded in any given sample. Benthic macroinvertebrate samples yielded similar water quality ratings in both treatment and reference sites regardless of differences in stream habitat assessments. Results suggest that properly applied forestry BMPs are effective in maintaining and protecting water quality in small watersheds in the lower Piedmont/Upper Coastal Plain.