Forest Science Program

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Mountain pine beetle and salvage harvesting: small stream and riparian zone response in the Sub-Boreal Spruce zone

Author(s) or contact(s): J.F. Rex, P. Krauskopf, D.A. Maloney, and P.J. Tschaplinski
Source: Forest Science Program
Subject: Riparian Management
Series: Extension Note
Other details:  Published 2009. Hardcopy is available.


The mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation and its related salvage harvesting activities adjacent to streams have the potential to influence small stream (< 2 m bankfull width) and riparian zone function by altering and removing riparian vegetation and causing other disturbances. These alterations are a significant management issue because small streams are the most predominant channel type on the landscape, comprising upwards of 80% of a watershed's total channel length (Shreve 1969). Accordingly, understanding the influence of these changes on small streams and their riparian zones is important to forest management.

The MPB infestation of riparian pine stands and/or subsequent riparian harvesting can alter riparian structure by changing microclimate conditions, decreasing litterfall to streams, and opening previously shaded streams to higher levels of direct solar radiation. To address the likelihood of this scenario occurring over the expansive Sub-Boreal Spruce (SBS) biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) zone in the Northern Interior Forest Region, a series of investigations was initiated to identify riparian stand structure and the influence of MPB and salvage harvesting on riparian zones and small streams. The initial studies described here were implemented in the Vanderhoof Forest District because it has been heavily affected by MPB and has correspondingly seen increased levels of salvage harvesting to recover some economic value from the forest. These studies aim to provide short-term answers to questions about the influence of the MPB and salvage harvesting on small streams, namely:
- What is the riparian stand structure of small streams in MPB-affected areas of the SBS within the Vanderhoof Forest District?
- How do the MPB infestation (grey attack stage) and salvage harvesting affect riparian zones and small streams, including shade?

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Updated April 01, 2009