Modelling air temperature gradients across managed small streams in western Washington

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Leaving riparian strips on both sides of a stream is widely accepted to be an effective management approach in sustaining the valuable functions of stream and riparian ecosystems. The authors' overall objective is to provide microclimatic information for assessing the effectiveness of these strips. During the summer of 1993 and 1994, air temperatures were collected across 20 small, buffered streams in western Washington, USA, including five streams sampled before and after harvesting of the forest. These data were statistically analysed to examine the effects of adjacent harvesting with preservation of 16-72 m riparian forest strips. Regression models were developed to predict air temperatures at the stream and buffer edges, the difference between two locations, and seasonal changes. The authors found: (1) clearcutting in winter 1993/94 increased air temperature on the stream by up to 4°C, and changes in temperature variability from the stream to the upland, measured by coefficient of variation (CV), were significantly higher after harvesting; (2) forest buffers provided minimal protection for stream air temperature during the middle of summer (July) but were more effective early and late in the season; (3) buffer width was not a significant variable in predicting stream air temperature, suggesting that even a 72 m buffer was not sufficient to maintain a stream environment because of greater depth of edge influences.

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Journal of Environmental Management