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A Synthesis of Sierran Forest Biomass Management Studies and Potential Effects on Water Quality

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Miller, Watkins W.; Johnson, Dale W.; Karam, Sarah L.; Walker, Roger F.; Weisberg, Peter J.
Journal: Forests
Volume: 1
Page(s): 131-153
Date: 2010
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6781
Sector: Forestry
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): water quality
Sierra Nevada
Abstract: "The Lake Tahoe basin, located along the California and Nevada border between the Carson and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, represents a complex forested ecosystem consisting of numerous sub-watersheds and tributaries that discharge directly to Lake Tahoe. This synthesis focuses on historical and current nutrient pools and the effects of biomass management in watersheds of the basin relative to their potential impacts on nutrient (N, P) related discharge water quality. An accumulating forest floor as a result of fire suppression has resulted in the build-up of large nutrient pools that now provide a natural source of long term nutrient availability to surface waters. As a consequence, stand and forest floor replacing wildfire may cause a large magnitude nutrient mobilization impact on runoff water quality. Hence, mechanical harvest and controlled burning have become popular management strategies. The most ecologically significant long-term effects of controlled fire appear to be the loss of C and N from the forest floor. Although the application of controlled fire may have some initial impact on overland/litter interflow nutrient loading, controlled burning in conjunction with mechanical harvest has the potential to improve runoff water quality by reducing N and P discharge and improving the overall health of forest ecosystems without the danger of a high intensity wildfire."

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